Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Otter's hardball last resort


Hard and firm data and pleading from Gov. Butch Otter didn't work with state legislators when the governor pleaded for modest, overdue fuel and license tax increases to tackle Idaho's desperately needed road and highway work.

So, Otter turned to political hardball to show he means business—vetoing a brace of bills to rattle lawmakers into action.

The result: the state Senate overwhelmingly did an about-face and approved a 3-cent boost of the state fuel tax to 28 cents effective now, plus another 3-cent jump in July, as well as ended the 2.5-cents-per-gallon exemption for ethanol and added some fees that the Idaho Transportation Department collects.

Now Otter's next obstacle is the state House, which also has stubbornly refused his requests.

The proposed $85 million annual influx of new revenues still leaves Idaho roads, highways and bridges short on maintenance and improvement.

If the state doesn't properly repair and expand its network of roads, the result will be impacts on the cost of doing business. Costs of commercial trucking as well as costs to private drivers will escalate through vehicle damage from crumbling roads and higher fuel consumption because of delays.

Just like Idaho, the federal government has ignored maintenance and expansion demands of the national road system, and now faces spending $131 billion per year on highways for 20 years just to catch up.

Delay doesn't save money. Delay in the end costs more.

Instead of offering up more knee-jerk votes, the House should invest in Idaho's recovery.




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