Author, Olivia Heersink, Idaho Press
When it comes to transportation needs in the Treasure Valley, Idaho's congressional delegation believes local organizations are best suited to identify those necessary projects as the area continues to grow.
U.S. Rep. Russ Fulcher, who oversees Idaho's 1st District, said the delegation instead acts as an advocate on the national stage once those needs are determined, and they then can work toward finding resources, such as federal grant funding.
"We want to be the support arm for our locals — Where are the needs? What do you need? What's the best way we can help you?" Fulcher said. "Let them be the rightful decision maker on the projects. Let them be the rightful identifier of the priority, because they know the best."
However, unlike many states, more than half of Idaho, nearly 63%, is made up of federal lands, Fulcher said. Because of this, property taxes — a common revenue stream for transportation and other infrastructure projects — can't be utilized in these areas of the state.
"We are not on the same footing as most states when it comes to transportation funding … and that's simply because we don't have access to the overall resource base," Fulcher said. "We are tenants in this state; the federal government is the landlord."
In general, most of the money going toward infrastructure and economic development projects, like transportation, is being generated from within the state, Fulcher said. And when a federal grant is secured, there may be strings attached.
"It's just not right," Fulcher said. "The federal government has a significant responsibility in our state. Their contribution needs to be commensurate with the revenue stream that we are generally denied as a function of them being the primary asset holders in the state."
About 48% — or almost $348 million — of the state's nearly $727 million transportation budget came from the federal government in 2020, according to the Idaho Transportation Department.
Fulcher said Idaho's congressional delegation — which also is composed of Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo and 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson — is constantly advocating for that "revenue stream" and apprising local organizations of what grants are available for them at the federal level to compensate for this lack of funding. It's their most important role, he added.
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