In 1995 the Idaho Legislature, by House Concurrent Resolution 21, authorized creation of the Legislative Council Interim Committee on Transportation Resources Management. The Committee was directed to undertake and complete a study of the issues affecting management of the transportation resources of Idaho and to report its findings and recommendations, including proposed legislation, back to the Legislature The Committee was made up of six senators and six representatives and was co-chaired by Representative JoAnn Wood and myself. The Committee also included a representative from the Idaho Transportation Department, the Idaho Association of Counties, the Association of Idaho Cities and the Idaho Association of Highway Districts. The Committee held thirteen meetings throughout the state from June to November of 1995. These hearings allowed the input of citizens and transportation interest groups in all parts of the state to tell the Committee members how they felt about Idaho's current transportation system and what the future of that system should be. The Committee also spent a great deal of time studying the condition of Idaho's highways and analyzing the amount of funds it would take to correct the deficiencies in those highways. In its final report the consensus of the Committee was that the preservation of the transportation infrastructure of the state is crucial to the health of Idaho's economy and that additional funding for highways was justified.
Among the reports studied by the Committee was the "Idaho Highway Needs Assessment Study Update" completed in 1995. This study estimated that there were over $8 billion dollars iii total needs on our State and local highways for the period 1994 to 2000. About half this amount was just to correct current deficiencies which resulted from past funding inadequacies.
In 1996 the Idaho Legislature responded to the Committee's recommendations by increasing the state fuel tax by four cents per gallon and also raised motor vehicle registration fees. These feel tax and registration fee increases were dedicated to a ~"R~estricted Highway Fund" which can only be spent for highway construction and maintenance. With this four-cent increase, Idahoans arc now paying a motor fuel tax of twenty-five cents per gallon, one~ of the highest in the nation. Idaho ranks fourth in the nation in per capita fuel taxes paid. The State of Idaho and its people are doing their share to fund transportation in our state.
Last year the Congress designated the National Highway System (NHS) which was mandated under ISTEA. Idaho is an integral and important part of the NHS, with 2,350 miles of our highways being approved by Congress as having national significance. The NHS carries a majority of the commercial traffic across our nation and is critically important to our economy. There is a strong federal interest in having an efficient and well-maintained transportation system in Idaho across the nation. The federal government should significantly increase the amount of funding it is spending on the NHS.
As I stated before, the Legislature and the citizens of Idaho have made a strong commitment to a good transportation system, both for our state and for the nation. The federal government should make the same commitment be increasing the level of federal spending for surface transportation. For a number of years, states and local governments have provided a majority of the finding for transportation nationwide while the percentage supplied by federal-aid has steadily declined. The Congress can reverse this decline by fully funding federal-aid highway programs. The $20 billion in federal-aid being spent annually on highways could be increased to $26 billion by stopping the current practice of allowing large surpluses to build up in the Highway Trust Fund in order to offset the national deficit. The 4.3 cents in federal gas taxes which is now going to the General Fund for deficit reduction should be transferred to the Highway Trust Fund where it can be used for the purpose that our taxpayers want and expect it to be used for.