A measure the Idaho Legislature recently passed to provide a reported $320 million in extra funding for road and bridge projects, became law without the signature of Gov. Butch Otter.
The new law allows the state to issue up to $300 million in new bond debt, to be repaid by Idaho's future allocations from the federal Highway Trust Fund. Lawmakers specified that the bond revenue only be spent on specific projects from a list contained in the legislation.
It also carves out one percent of state sales tax receipts for transportation projects, and extends a provision that devotes to transportation a share of each year's general fund surplus,
the Idaho Mountain Express reported.
But the governor,
in a letter to his secretary of state, listed both his reasons for withholding his signature and for letting the legislation take effect anyway.
Otter objected to paying for road projects with sales tax revenues and general fund receipts – including "year-to-year financial windfalls" – that put transportation in competition for funds with other state government functions. He also said the state's "transportation funding streams are tenuous," partly due to the potential for federal reductions.
However, Otter said the safety and commercial risks of not funding projects in congested corridors outweighed his reservations, adding that current prospects "to generate additional long-term transportation funding for Idaho's road and bridges . . . are too remote to let this opportunity pass."
"Immediate needs require immediate action," Otter said, "and with all its flaws [the legislation] provides at least a short-term response."
KTVB reported that the Idaho Transportation Department would submit a number of projects in the coming week to the Idaho Transportation Board, which will decide which ones to fund with the added revenue.