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Poll finds support for gas tax hike

Lewiston Morning Tribune
BOISE – A new survey finds strong support for a penny increase in the state gasoline tax at a time when construction and repair money is falling behind demands of the road.

But the poll conducted last month for the American Automobile Association found no support for using any vehicle taxes for non-road purposes or for raising license or registration fees to finance public transportation.

There was also opposition to the experiment for heavier trucks on southern Idaho highways but support for expanding the mandatory car restraint law to children up to 6 years old and 60 pounds in weight. It now applies only to those up to 4 years old and 40 pounds.

"For voters, there's an apparent disconnect when it comes to using vehicle taxes for non-road purposes," AAA Idaho President Jim Manion said. "Idaho's constitutional requirement to use gas taxes and registration fees on our roads makes sense to Idahoans because of the direct user-payer benefit."

The poll, released Friday, was conducted for AAA by Moore Information of Portland. The company contacted 403 registered voters in 40 of Idaho's 44 counties on Dec. 18, 19 and 20. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Sixty-three percent of those surveyed said they supported a penny increase in the fuel tax, which would generate about $9 million a year for use by state and local highway departments.

The fuel tax is currently 25 cents a gallon, last increased in the mid-1990s, and state and local officials have spent more than a year reviewing ways to begin eating into the backlog of road projects the state has.

The poll found a close division on a two-cent increase – 45 percent for and 52 percent against. But the opposition rose to 59 percent when the proposed increase hit three cents.

There was no ambivalence when it came to using highway revenue for other purposes. By better than two to one, those polled objected to raising vehicle fees to finance public transportation projects, and it was seven to one against using gas taxes or vehicle fees for anything other than road maintenance and construction.

While lawmakers last year approved a 10-year experiment for heavier trucks on 600 miles of southern Idaho roads, the poll found solid opposition to allowing trucks up to 129,000 pounds on the highways.

Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed were against increasing the maximum weight limit from the 105,000 pounds that is the standard across the state while 28 percent favored it.