Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter issued the following statement today in reaction to the Idaho House of Representatives’ 43-27 vote against House Bill 246, which would increase the state tax on motor fuel by a total of seven cents from the current twenty-five cents per gallon to thirty-two cents per gallon over a period of three years, bringing in $61 million for highway and bridge maintenance. The tax increase would have amounted to an extra $16.36 per year for the typical driver, who travels 12,000 miles annually.
“I’m disappointed by today’s outcome, but I appreciate the constructive debate and I am not giving up. My staff and I continue to talk with legislators, as do representatives of the many stakeholders from communities throughout Idaho who support taking action now on our transportation needs. I believe all the facts are in and the case has been made. Don’t take my word for it; the Legislature’s own audit confirms the need. There also is no doubt that one-time stimulus money is not the answer. I remain committed to finding a significant, stable and long-term solution to the funding requirements for protecting our $16 billion public investment in roads and bridges. In the meantime, it is important to note the steps the Legislature and my office are taking together to address the fundamental issue of confidence in the Idaho Transportation Department. I understand that confidence and trust are necessary, and that they go hand in hand with entrusting ITD with more taxpayer money. This process continues.”
Voting no were 28 of 52 Republicans and 15 of 18 Democrats.
“It was a pretty strong signal,” said House Speaker Lawerence Denny (R-Midvale), a supporter of the measure who nonetheless added that he never expected it to get 30 votes.
“Hindsight is always 20-20,” Denney said, when asked if Otter should have taken the $68.5 million in roads funding he was offered 12 months ago. “If he would have taken it, he would have $68 million.”
When Republican House leaders extended that olive branch in March 2008, Otter was convinced he could get more to unleash construction crews to resurface about 1,000 miles of pavement, repair bridges, create jobs, boost commerce and improve safety.
Many of the lawmakers who opposed the bill cited the poor economy and said they didn’t want to raise taxes on constituents already struggling to pay their bills.
“It’s tough for me to hit someone with a tax increase when they’re already down,” said Rep. R.J. Harwood (R-St. Maries).
Supporters said lawmakers have a duty to keep roads safe for citizens and businesses and noted that money spent now will save taxpayers in the long run by helping to avoid more costly repairs.
“The Idaho taxpayers don’t like taxes, but they really don’t like bad roads,” said Rep. Ken Roberts (R-Donnelly).
FAILED – 27-43-0
AYES — Anderson, Bedke, Bilbao, Black, Block, Chadderdon, Eskridge, Gibbs, Hartgen, Henderson, Higgins, Jaquet, Jarvis, Luker, Moyle, Patrick, Raybould, Ringo, Roberts, Shirley, Smith(24), Stevenson, Takasugi, Trail, Wills, Wood(27), Mr. Speaker
NAYS — Andrus, Barrett, Bayer, Bell, Boe, Bolz, Boyle, Burgoyne, Chavez, Chew, Clark, Collins, Crane, Cronin, Durst, Hagedorn, Hart, Harwood, Killen, King, Kren, Labrador, Lake, Loertscher, Marriott, Mathews, McGeachin, Nielsen, Nonini, Palmer, Pasley-Stuart, Pence, Ruchti, Rusche, Sayler, Schaefer, Shepherd(02), Shepherd(08), Simpson, Smith(30), Thayn, Thompson, Wood(35)
Floor Sponsor – Bedke