Transportation funding a hot topic in gubernatorial races

Idaho candidates try to find solutions; Wis. vote-getters reject idea of tolling

News Wisconsin State Journal, August 05, 2010
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With the November elections heating up, transportation funding is pouring gas on a few gubernatorial races.

In Idaho, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter is in a tight battle with Democrat Keith Allred. On Aug. 2, Allred unveiled a plan that would cut the gas tax for motorists while increasing it for trucks weighing more than 60,000 lb. The strategy stems from a study recently released by a gubernatorial task force that concluded passenger-car drivers pay a disproportionate share of highway maintenance costs compared to heavy trucks.

Otter pushed for more road financing in 2009, and the move left the state legislature in a tail spin. So far the incumbent has not released a transportation plan heading into 2011.

“I can understand wanting to have the perfect solution in a campaign cycle, but the bottom line is the task force has not completed its work,” he said in a statement. “Leadership requires we deal with reality rather than theory.”

“We’ve had four studies, and we have been deliberating on this issue for three years,” Allred countered. “Each one of those studies concludes that I am right on this issue.”

The Idaho Trucking Association does not think Allred has the answer, which would raise the tax on diesel fuel to $1.30 a gallon. Kathy Fowers, president of the association, said passenger cars get better mileage than heavy trucks, which distorts the theory that the average motorist is paying more into the state’s highway trust fund.

In Wisconsin, all three “major” candidates for governor have rejected the use of tolls as a road-financing remedy. However, Republican Scott Walker might be in favor of allowing single-passenger cars use high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. He also would be in favor of banning raids in the state’s highway trust fund. Two of Walker’s opponents, Republican Mark Neumann and Democrat Tom Barrett, do not appear to be focused on Wisconsin’s road and bridge funding.

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