SANDPOINT — This year’s legislative session is in the rearview mirror at last, and Sen. Shawn Keough played an important role in the success, and defeat, of several transportation-related bills that affect Bonner County drivers.
She said the state annually faces a $250 million backlog in road repairs — a total that runs closer to $500 million annually when bridge and road expansions and anticipated future projects are included, she said. “We clearly have a problem that the Legislature needs to make a dent in.”
To that end, Keough supports using several tools in the state’s transportation funding toolbox, she said.
“The gas tax is one tool in our transportation funding tool box. Others include registration fees, licenses, and bonding. Another is funding from our federal government.” Each penny of gas tax results in $10 million for state transportation revenue, she said. GARVEE bonds allow the state to move forward with road work at today’s prices and pay off the bonds partially with federal dollars.
Keough co-wrote, introduced and led passage of S 1141, a bill that allocates $52 million surplus funds towards road repairs necessitated by extreme winter weather.
“The bill is awaiting the action of the governor,” Keough said. “I hope he signs it into law and allows that money to go to work right away!” she said.
She also said that she would have supported S1162 if it had come up for a vote. S1162 had proposed $300 million in GARVEE bonds.
Ideally, Keough said she would change the way that truck fees are charged, and would raise the gas tax anywhere from a nickel to a dime per gallon.
“I believe that the governor and the Legislature should consider raising the gas tax by 5 cents to 10 cents a gallon and revamp the licensing system for trucks so that it is fair and trucks pay the same per mile fee regardless of how many miles run,” Keough said. “I also support a structured and conservative extension of GARVEE bonding.”
The state legislature has run into problems passing transportation bills in recent years, and efforts to get them through have gone down to the wire.
This year, the legislature passed its $320 million transportation bill only several days before the legislative session adjourned. Keough opposed the bill, which diverted sales tax money into roads.