House approves GARVEE bill, rejects gas tax increase
Members of the Idaho House this morning (April 10) approved issuing an additional $82 million in GARVEE (Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle) bonds to continue projects on six major Idaho corridors.
By a 10-vote margin (39-29), the House approved sending SB 1186 to Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter for signing. Approval followed about two hours of debate and came almost exactly 24 hours after House members rejected a proposed two-cent increase in the state’s vehicle fuel tax.
Chairwoman JoAn Wood, R-Rigby, argued against the GARVEE bill saying “Debt is what has gotten this country into the serous trouble that we’re into today, and GARVEE is the debt that is hurting Idaho.”
Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, countered that Idaho already has an established and responsible borrowing history and lawmakers have an obligation to leave a safe transportation system for future generations.
“There’s nothing wrong with responsible borrowing…” Eskridge emphasized. “What greater debt could we leave our grandchildren than roads that aren’t appropriate and aren’t safe for our grandkids to be driving on?”
The House was even more divided Thursday when it voted 37-32 to reject a two-cent fuel tax increase. Much of the debate centered on timing. Given the current economy, this isn’t the year to raise any kind of tax, some Legislators argued.
Reaction was swift and direct from Gov. Otter who vowed to continue working on a transportation funding compromise.. (See the Governor’s statement.)
The failed bill would have provided about $10.6 million additional money for maintaining the state highway system and $7 million for local highway districts, counties and cities. It would have translated into an estimated annual increase of just $12 for average Idaho drivers.
Also on Thursday, the Joint Appropriations-Finance Committee voted 11-9 to allocate about $17.5 million of Idaho’s federal stimulus funds to local highway districts instead of using it on state highways as Gov. Otter proposed.