BOISE(AP) A group of government and business leaders in southwest Idaho has put together a bill to allow voters to approve local sales taxes to pay for highway and public transit projects.
A similar bill was killed in committee in the last legislative session with the help of three Republican lawmakers. But the new effort contains significant changes and may do better in the upcoming session, backers said.
The bill will allow regional transportation boards to ask area voters to OK a sales tax of up to 1 percent.
"What we're asking for is basically a home-rule issue, to let local voters decide," Nampa Mayor Tom Dale told the Idaho Statesman. "That's a very Republican, conservative concept."
Caldwell Mayor Garret Nancolas co-chairs the regional group that reshaped the local-option proposal. He said the biggest change is the addition of highway improvements to go with public transit projects. Another change is increasing from 60 percent to a supermajority of 66.66 percent to get voter approval.
Election dates would also be limited to the May primary and the November general election when turnout is higher.
"I think we've done a good job of listening to concerns of legislators," Nancolas said. "If this one doesn't get out of committee, I'm not sure what we can do to make it better."
The local-option proposal died in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee during the last session, and the new proposal could face rough going there again.
Two Republican representatives from Nampa on that committee, Vice-Chair Gary Collins and Bob Schaefer, helped kill the idea last session. They said they recognize the problems faced by commuters but aren't sure the local-option proposal is the best answer.
"I haven't made my mind up yet," Collins said. "I still have a little bit of a problem with the public transportation end of it."