- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 7, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The lone transportation funding proposal currently making its way throughout the Idaho Legislature underwent a nearly $127 million makeover Tuesday.

The Idaho Senate voted 22-13 on HB 312, which includes higher vehicle registration fees and increase Idaho’s gas tax by 10 cents over the next four years.

However, because the bill was tweaked, it now needs to clear the House once more before heading to the governor’s desk.

The original bill only created $20 million of new transportation funding, a far cry from solving Idaho’s current $262 million annual transportation shortfall.

The amended version now would raise $65.7 million in its first year by raising vehicle registration fees by $25, creating a $140 user fee for electric and hybrid cars, and increasing the fuels tax by four cents a gallon.

The fuels tax would then slowly increase to 10 cents by 2019.

“We were sent here to take care of our roads and transportation needs, and we’re not even meeting the minimum that we need,” said Republican Sen. Marv Hagedorn from Meridian. “So even though I don’t like it, I still have to vote for it.”

Finding an adequate transportation funding solution is final major hurdle lawmakers are trying to clear before they adjourn for the year. However, a division between the House and Senate over what the transportation bill should look like has caused multiple delays to accomplishing much progress.

Now the Idaho Legislature is just a handful of days from becoming one of the top 10 longest legislative sessions in state history.

Republican Sen. Bert Brackett from Rogerson, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, says the amendments included to HB 312 strict instructions that the new money only be used for road and bridge maintenance and replacement on a state and local level.

“I think some people think it’s too high, others too small,” he said. “But it’s a good down payment on our shortfall of $262 million.”

Brackett added that his committee will consider another transportation revenue generating bill Wednesday morning. It will be up to the committee if the HB 310 - which is estimated to generate $26 million in new transportation funds - will receive the same makeover as Tuesday’s bill did.

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