Idaho Legislature approves road work aid

May 10, 2021

Keith Goble


A bill headed to the Idaho governor’s desk would provide increase funding for road and bridge work.

The Senate voted 29-6 last week to endorse legislation to more than quadruple funding available for a transportation program to benefit large infrastructure projects. In April, House lawmakers approved the funding plan on a 59-11 vote.

Dubbed the Transportation Expansion and Congestion Mitigation program, the 4-year-old program provides additional funding for statewide construction projects through bonding.

A 2017 law authorized the state to shift a portion of sales tax revenue from the general fund to the transportation program. Specifically, 1% of the state’s sales tax revenue is deposited into the program intended to expand state highways. The sales tax revenue stems from the state’s cigarette tax.

Transportation funding boost

Passage of the bill, H362, would more than quadruple the amount of sales tax revenue made available for the TECM program.

Sponsored by House Transportation Chairman Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, the bill calls for shifting 4.5% of the tax revenue into the transportation program. Essentially, the change would provide an $84 million boost for the program in the first year.

If approved by Gov. Brad Little, H362 would provide a fixed $80 million annually to the Idaho Transportation Department for traffic flow and mitigation. A fiscal note attached to the bill shows that $1.6 billion in bonding would be permitted for projects at the state and local levels over 20 years.

Local jurisdictions would split the remaining funds for road and bridge work. The amount available for local jurisdictions in the first year is expected to be $4 million.

The funds would be made available for purposes “including but not limited to” improving traffic flow and to mitigate congestion.

‘The right move’

Palmer has said throughout the bill’s advancement at the statehouse that although he is not 100% comfortable with bonding, it is the right move for the state.

“When we are looking at major projects that need to be done because of the influx of people, and the opportunity we have because of the growth to capture this money and pay for major projects, right now while the interest rates are so low there is no better way of doing it,” Palmer previously testified.

Critics say they are concerned about borrowing. They question whether borrowing is unconstitutional.

Palmer said his bill limits bonding.

Hemp transportation

Action already taken by the governor makes Idaho the 50th state to legalize the production, research and transportation of industrial hemp.

Idaho has had multiple instances in recent years involving truck drivers arrested and charged with transporting marijuana as they hauled loads of hemp through the state, Land Line Media previously reported.

Previously H126, the new law allows Idaho farmers to produce industrial hemp.

A cap of 0.3% of THC would be imposed. The compound is what gives marijuana its high.

The Idaho Department of Agriculture, the State Police, and the governor will be responsible for developing rules and fees for the production, sales and processing of industrial hemp. Compliance testing of hemp would be conducted by law enforcement. LL

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