Business leaders push for transportation funding bill

Posted at 5:44 PM, Mar 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-29 18:29:04-04

The Idaho Legislature is rushing to pass a transportation funding bill before the end of the session. 

Last week, the Senate shot down a roughly $320 million proposal to repair the state's crumbling roads and bridges. 

Monday, the Senate introduced a new transportation bill seeking $300 million in GARVEE bonds. 

The Senate Transportation Committee approved the measure around 5:00 p.m. Monday, sending the bill to the Senate floor for a vote.  

Chambers of commerce across Idaho are pushing for legislators to pass a transportation funding bill before it's too late. 

"I-84 across southern Idaho is a very important freight corridor and national corridor, and the ability to safely transport across that is extremely important," President and CEO of the Nampa Chamber of Commerce Debbie Kling said.

Without new funding for road maintenance and improvement, Idaho jobs could be at stake. 

"If we have a reputation of having horrible roads and it's difficult to get through here, we don't want national business to bypass the Treasure Valley," Kling said. 

Asst. Majority Leader Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, says they have the votes in the House to pass a transportation funding bill, that is, if it can get by the Senate.

"This isn't just Canyon County," Crane said. "We have 46 co-sponsors on this in the House of Representatives; you only need 36 votes in the House to pass it. So, we have more than enough votes to pass it. Really, this is an issue with the Senate now, to see what they're comfortable with and to see what they need to get something passed."

Kling said legislators should look ahead for that this could mean for business in Idaho.

"I think we need to look at transportation funding as an investment, not just as an expense," she said. "I think the issue has to do with funding. Where does the money come from? Important question, but investing the future of commerce in the state of Idaho is also very important."

Though legislators are looking to sine die Tuesday, Crane said he isn't ready to walk away from the issue.

"I'm not ready to give up yet and say this isn't going to get passed," he said. "I'm still optimistic that we're going to make progress on transportation. What that looks like, I don't know."

The Senate will vote on the bill Tuesday morning.