Excerpts from newspaper coverage of Thursday's JFAC presentation
Spokane Spokesman Review
Four of those fee-increase bills were introduced Thursday in the Senate Transportation Committee, but Chairman John McGee, R-Caldwell, said they were introduced "just for discussion."
"The governor made it quite clear in his State of the State address that he's not interested in seeing these on his desk this year, but they deserve to be heard about," McGee said.
Russell (Spokesman Review) Blog
That's the situation Idaho finds itself in, Department of Transportation Director Pamela Lowe told lawmakers Thursday, as she defended her agency's budget request for nearly $790 million in fiscal year 2008. It includes $264 million in bond proceeds for the second installment of Connecting Idaho, the largest road-building project in state history.
In 2007, the budget was $700 million, including $200 million borrowed for Connecting Idaho. The agency is responsible for maintaining thousands of miles of roads, 1,761 bridges and aviation infrastructure across 84,000-square-mile Idaho.
Though Lowe's request covers the fiscal year starting in July, much of her presentation was devoted to the future - 2010 specifically - when she expects Idaho's share of Federal Highway Administration money to shrink to 2006 levels. The Idaho Transportation Board has recommended seven fee or tax increases to cover an expected annual $200 million shortfall as money from Washington, D.C., begins to dwindle.
The Idaho Statesman
Connecting Idaho is a way to leverage federal highway funding by bonding future dollars for today's road building projects. With construction costs escalating faster than inflation, it saves the state money and speeds up the projects.
ITD said it hoped to have most of the money out in contracts by the fall, and is still requesting $264 million in funding for next year.
But ITD officials also said they can manage more of the bonding in-house, saving money on $18 million earmarked for contracting and putting it toward building roads. The total project has the state bonding $998 million with a total estimated cost of $1.5 billion by 2025.
Members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee
asked ITD officials Friday morning whether they should slow down the
bonding given the slow start on programs.
JFAC lawmakers said they appreciated Lowe's transparency but would be carefully considering whether the full $264 million should be made available for the project next year.