The Idaho Trucking Association wants to raise the state fuel tax to generate more money for highway safety and maintenance projects.
Hoping to prod a reluctant Legislature into action, the association introduced a bill in the House Transportation and Defense Committee Thursday that would boost the tax by six cents, to 31 cents per gallon.
The measure would provide about $53 per year in new revenue by 2016, making an initial dent in the state's estimated $262 million annual transportation funding shortfall.
Trucking industry lobbyist Skip Smyser, a former chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said the increase would be phased in over three years, at two-cents per year.
“I believe it's time for us to meaningfully address the infrastructure needs of this state,” he said. “We depend on a sound road system to be the kind of state we want to be.”
For 80 percent of the communities in Idaho, Smyser said, truck transportation is the only option they have for moving or receiving commodities.
“They don't have railroads, they don't have airports. Whatever they consume or market or sell, it's on a truck,” he said. “The economy of Idaho is totally and completely dependent on the trucking industry for its well-being.”
Gov. C.L. (Butch) Otter has long advocated raising more money for transportation funding. However, he indicated earlier this year that he wants to wait for the results from a public opinion poll before moving forward.
For more on this story, see Friday's Lewiston Tribune.