Idaho legislators this week authorized the use of a new tool that will expedite highway construction projects, generate jobs, stimulate the economy and transform the state’s transportation system.
Representatives worked late Tuesday to reach a compromise on Gov. Dirk Kempthorne’s revolutionary Connecting Idaho bill that easily passed the Senate a week earlier. After making several minor amendments to the bill, the House voted 47-23 to send the proposal back to the Senate where consensus was quickly reached by a 30-3 vote.
With the last piece of the 2005 Legislative puzzle placed, lawmakers cleared their desks, packed their bags and headed home. History will record the 58th Idaho Legislative session one of the most productive and influential.
Approval of GARVEE (Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle) bonding will fuel the governor’s Connecting Idaho plan and change the face of Idaho’s transportation system.
When the bill is signed into law by Gov. Kempthorne in the next week, the Idaho Transportation Board will be authorized to use bonds to compress nearly 30 years of normal highway construction into about 10 years.
A portion of Idaho’s future federal highway funds will be used to repay the bonds. The financing strategy also enables the transportation department flexibility in choosing whether to complete all or a portion of the 13 projects identified in Gov. Kempthorne’s initiative.
Those projects are:
Idaho will join a growing number other states that use the GARVEE bonding concept to move projects from the conceptual stage to construction. The transportation board will prioritize projects identified in Kempthorne’s plan and determine which ones qualify for GARVEE bonding.
Amendments made by the House and approved by the Senate, authorized the board to substitute other qualified projects if ones on the governor’s list are deemed not feasible. It also includes a graduated, multi-year cap on how much of the future federal funding can be directed toward bond payment.
Idaho will be authorized to use a maximum of 20 percent of its annual federal allocation for bonding the first four years and a 30 percent cap in the fifth year. The Legislature would approve any additional spending beyond the 30-percent level after the fifth year of the program.
The amendments differ only slightly from the proposal Gov. Kempthorne outlined in his state of the state address in January.