ITD representatives last week concluded a series of meetings with Idaho Legislators in all six of the administrative districts. Delegations included transportation board chairman Darrell Manning, acting director Scott Stokes, incoming director Brian Ness, governmental affairs manager Mollie McCarty, district engineers and administrative staff. They traveled to Coeur d’Alene and Lewiston on Tuesday (Dec. 15) after meeting with District 3 legislators on Monday.
The previous week included sessions in Shoshone, Pocatello and Rigby.
ITD introduced the annual pre-Legislature meeting concept in 2003 as a way of improving communication and discussing transportation issues. Agendas also typically include the department’s proposed budget and bills that could surface during the session.
“The sessions give us an opportunity to go to the legislative arenas and meet with them personally. Once the Legislature convenes every year in January it becomes a real challenge to interact with them on an individual basis,” McCarty explains.
“This sets the stage for the Legislative session so we address their questions and concerns in advance. It provides a broad view. Everything is on the table.”
ITD’s approach in the past was to make a formal presentation and then ask legislators for questions or responses. In contrast, this year ITD scaled back the formal presentation and invited legislators to shape the discussions.
They seemed to appreciate the more informal approach and the improved dialogue, McCarty says.
The emphasis this year was to talk with legislators about agency performance – how to measure the department’s performance in its quest to operate efficiently and transparently. ITD is making a renewed commitment to accountability.
“We put a lot of emphasis on accountability and credibility. They appreciated that very much,” McCarty said of legislators.
Ness, who will assume duties next month, participated in all of the sessions and welcomed the opportunity to meet legislators. He and Stokes, who has guided the department since last summer, told legislators that ITD is committed to openness and efficiency while maximizing available resources.
“We received some suggestions and responded to concerns legislators had about revenue and its impact on the GARVEE program,” McCarty explains. Staff also explained the federally funded stimulus program and its effect on employment within the construction industry.
Dave Tolman, administrator of the Division of Administration, provided an overview of the department’s current revenue picture, the tough budget choices ITD is making and the impact of stimulus and GARVEE projects on workloads.
Legislators were aware and sympathetic with ITD’s budget constraints and the need to find long-term transportation funding solutions, McCarty explains.
“We had some discussion about the governor’s transportation funding task force and its goal to make recommendations by late next year.”
In anticipation of that report, legislators probably will not be asked to consider major transportation funding issues this session, and ITD is forwarding only four transportation-related bills for consideration.
“There is no expectation that any new revenue enhancement legislation will be introduced this year from transportation,” McCarty said. “Right now the focus is all on performing within the resources we have, to operate visibly and to be accountable.”