This is the last week before the Legislature starts voting on lots and lots of bills. Legislators have been working on budgets, preparing bills, and connecting with each other over potential issues.

Better leadership, better representation

As I have become better connected here, expectations increase. Whether it be from you, who are my constituents, other legislators, or the executive branch. I have had individual meetings this week with The Director of the Office of Finance, the Director of Health and Welfare, the Director of the Department of Transportation, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction.  I think they are seeking me out for two reasons: they believe me to be a common-sense guy who will listen to concerns and give them reasoned feedback without a lot of political talk. Also, I believe, in the case of the Little Administration, they are making a serious attempt to reach out to key legislators to find out what Idaho’s citizens are thinking.
I believe this is a really good situation for you. Your voice is being heard at a higher level of government than ever before. I think that the administrative branch of government is sincerely interested in hearing your voice.

But they also know that I am not one of them. I represent the legislative branch, and we are here to make sure a system of checks and balances exist. I will defend that constitutional position on your behalf.

Transportation’s future

As you know, I am the vice chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. In that role, I have access to information that most folks don’t have. I will try to pass that along if you are interested.

Here’s the deal. We fund transportation primarily from monies derived from registration fees and fuel taxes. That’s where the money comes from to fix roads or to build roads and bridges. Here’s the problem: we have increased the efficiency of cars and trucks and have an increasing number of electric and hybrid vehicles. This efficiency causes less fuel per mile, but the repair of the roads increases because of labor, material, and equipment costs. The electric cars don’t pay fuel taxes. So, we have declining revenue to fund increasing repair and maintenance costs. So far, we are surviving because of our increasing population and the cars they bring, so revenue is keeping us afloat…sort of.

Factoid: 827 bridges in the state system in Idaho are more than 50 years old…that is their life expectancy! By 2021, half of our bridges (897) will be beyond their life expectancy! I’m no expert, but this doesn’t seem sustainable.

Idaho Transportation Department is working with surrounding states to test cars to see if a ‘pay to play option’ is worth working on. Basically, my mother, who drives 1000 miles a year, would pay less than I would when I run about 50,000 miles per year. I would get charged for using the roads that will need repair, based on my usage. She won’t pay as much because she doesn’t use them as much.

Trucks pay this way now, so there are systems in place.  I am not advocating anything, just making you aware of the situation.  Maybe some of you have ideas on solutions?  I would love to hear your ideas!

Tune in to KLER radio

I have an agreement with KLER Radio in Orofino to do a weekly radio show for those interested. It will air at about 12:00 noon and 5:20 pm on Mondays. It is only about four minutes, so it won’t ruin your day!  This week’s discussion is about the School Funding Formula, and its effect on Orofino schools. Tell me what you think!

I always enjoy hearing from you.  If you have specific interest on bills, please let me know and I will run them down for you. Send me an email to ccrabtree@senate.idaho.gov.

All the best,