Elected officials, citizens provide input
Elected officials and citizens throughout Idaho expressed a sincere interest in the transportation system and developing additional resources to fund improvements when they participated in a series of statewide conferences the past month.
Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter called for the conferences to explain the growing local and statewide funding shortfall, estimated to be $240 million annually. Meetings have been held in six Idaho cities – Caldwell, Coeur d’Alene, Lewiston, Idaho Falls, Pocatello and Twin Falls – beginning July 14.
More than 800 people attended the first six meetings. A concluding session is planned Tuesday evening following discussions with U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo and national transportation officials in Boise. (See separate story.)
Transportation funding discussions led to the completion of 167 survey forms, 77 comment forms, 85 e-mail comments, 10 formal letters and 46 responses supporting alternative transportation.
The largest of the six statewide sessions was the kickoff conference at The College of Idaho where 233 people turned out for presentations.
As part of the series, staff members from the governor’s office and the transportation department met with legislators to discuss funding needs and options. More than 110 people attended legislative sessions, including most of the state’s lawmakers.
Of the respondents who submitted survey forms, 109 indicated that Idaho’s road and bridge funding problems should be a very important issue in the 2009 Legislative session. Twenty-two respondents ranked transportation funding as one of the top three issues facing the state.
Responding to whether they would support raising additional revenue to fund road and bridge improvements, 160 responded yes, only seven indicated no and three people failed to answer. Of those who support additional revenue, 69 said they favor increasing gas/fuel taxes, one person suggested an additional tax on “gas-guzzling” vehicles, one advocated a recreational vehicle tax, five opposed an increase in fuel tax, and 54 did not comment on a possible fuel tax increase.
Random thoughts from the conferences: