Highway improvements: Pay now or pay much more later

HB 312 tallyIf you’re like me and had the recent experience of renewing your vehicle registration, you saw a new line item of $21 to help pay for needed highway projects. HB 312 passed last year, so I knew this was coming. In addition to the registration increase, the state gas tax was increased 7 cents (from 25 to 32 cents) per gallon.

Some say that it isn’t very conservative to raise taxes and fees under any circumstance, for any purpose. Others feel that these are actually “user fees” and not truly taxes. If you look at the need, however, I think you’ll agree that our state legislators who voted for this improvement legislation, like Luke Malek, Shawn Keough and Eric Redman, made the right call. Here’s why:

Earlier this year, Idaho Transportation Department Director Brian Ness testified to the Legislature that Idaho has almost 800 bridges beyond their design life (more than 50 years old, usually). In 2010, Gov. Butch Otter’s transportation task force reported that $262 million is needed annually just to keep our roads and bridges from getting any worse than they are today. ITD has already been responsibly restructured to trim its budget by $80 million, cutting the fat before asking for more funding.

Because of HB 312, ITD recently announced $54 million in statewide projects from the revenue created in the first year. Kootenai County will receive $13 million of those dollars, and these projects have been identified:

• $6.25 million to restore 10.2 miles from Highway 41 in Rathdrum to the Highway 54 junction with a pavement treatment and sealcoat

• $5.4 million to replace the Interstate 90 overpass on Highway 97 at Wolf Lodge with a taller and wider interchange

• $1.28 million to improve traffic safety at three intersections on Highway 41 between Highway 53 and U.S. 2

According to a national study, every transportation dollar invested now will save $6 to $14 in repair or replacement costs in the future. We can either begin to tackle our maintenance shortfall now, while the roads and bridges are still intact, or we can wait ‘til they fall apart. Which approach seems more responsible to you?

To see what our local legislators thought, see attached graphic.

For details about intent of the law or funding:https://www.legislature.idaho.gov/legislation/2015/legIndex.htm

By: Mara’d Sjostrom, My Turn, cdapress.com


Mara’d Sjostrom is a member of Republican North Idaho Political Action Committee (Republican NIPAC or NIPAC): “Protecting Individual Freedom, Promoting Individual Responsibility: Our mission is to help rational, dedicated, problem-solving people get elected to public office- by motivating citizens to register, affiliate, and vote in the upcoming primary elections.”