Past: On January 12, 2009, Governor Otter of Idaho gave a State of the State Address proposing a 7 percent cut in the budget, a commendable effort in the tough economic times we are in. He stated in his speech, "Idaho taxpayers are struggling," which should have been viewed as an opportunity to cut taxes.
Rather, in the same speech, he went on to talk about a transportation plan that included tax hikes. The tax increases included in his plan were:
-a tax hike of $17.6 million in the first year of the gas tax proposal, that would eventually be $88 million after 5 years.
-a hike in the registration tax (fee) for vehicles designed to raise $15 million in the first full year of implementation that would raise up to $51 million after 5 years.
-and a tax of 6% on rental cars.
See ATR’s February 11th Letter to Governor Otter.
Presently: The Idaho House of Representatives have been slaying these tax increases and we hope that they will keep it up. On Thursday they will have an opportunity to kill a 2 cent per gallon gas tax increase with an estimated $17.6 million that would be taken from taxpayers. So far the House has killed the 6% rental car tax and the gas tax (which we see resurfacing). We ask that the Idaho House again opposes these tax increases and votes not on House Bill 135 on Thursday.
In Idaho and elsewhere, if transportation is going to be a priority, then it needs to be treated like one. Taxpayers will be better off if states pay for their priorties (i.e. transportation) first and pay for other financial obligations as they fall in line according to their importance. The Governor needs to look at finding money in other areas of the budget to pay transportation costs instead of seeking additional revenue from from the taxpayers.
In addition to handling priorities first, Idaho needs to adopt transparency in government spending. With such a website, taxpayers would be able to see where their transportation tax dollars are currently being spent. There was a bill this year sponsored by Rep. Hart that would have laid the groundwork for spending transparency, but was killed in the House. If made law, transparency fully developed would make available online where the transportation and education dollars of the state are spent and may ultimately find realized savings for the state (in Texas, savings has been found throught their online searchable spending website). For more information on Idaho’s spending transparency efforts click here. You can also find comments concerning transperency from the Idaho Statesman here.