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Lawmakers: Idaho highway dollars should prioritize vehicles

Idaho Statesman
Idaho Statesman

Idaho lawmakers want to limit how local governments can spend tax revenue coming from vehicle fees and the fuel tax.

Under a bill passed by both the House and Senate, that money would have to “primarily” be used to benefit motor vehicle transportation.

Last fiscal year, the state sent nearly $260 million to local governments and highway districts to fund road projects. Sen. Ali Rabe (D-Boise) said some towns, cities or highway districts are already spending 90% of this money on vehicle traffic.

“We don’t just need to continue widening the roads. All this is going to do is exacerbate that problem,” Rabe said.

Research backs up that assertion. But cyclists don’t have to pay to register their bikes and pedestrians don’t pay fees to use sidewalks.

Sen. Lori Den Hartog (R-Meridian) said this highway money should primarily benefit motor vehicles.

“It’s important that what they’re being taxed for is how the government entities are indeed spending the funds,” Den Hartog said.

Senate Pro Tem Chuck Winder (R-Boise) points out that nothing is preventing towns and cities from paying for pedestrian and bike-friendly infrastructure themselves.

“If they want to put in extra amenities for bike lanes, for whatever it might be if that’s a high priority for the community, then do that,” Winder said.

A portion of the money could also go to such projects, supporters argue.

Gov. Brad Little will consider the issue next.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!