AAA Idaho launches campaign to boost road funding in 2014

AAA Idaho is pressing to revive Gov. Butch Otter’s failed effort to raise revenue for road and bridges with a new campaign called “Better Roads. Fair Funding.”

The motorists’ group has 120,000 members and a new website — betterroadsforidaho. (Disclosure: I am a member of AAA and have been since I started driving in 1974).

Dave Carlson, AAA’s director of public and governmental affairs, announced the campaign in an email late Friday, citing the $262 million annual maintenance shortfall identified by Gov. Butch Otter’s 2010 Task Force on Modernizing Transportation Funding.

The new website emphasizes findings from the task force report that say heavy trucks pay 73 percent of their “fair share,” while medium-sized trucks pay 136 percent, light trucks 105 percent and cars 126 percent.

Otter tried mightily in his first term to win support to raise registration fees and fuel taxes in 2008 and 2009. But his fellow Republicans in the Legislature rejected any increases. Then-freshman Idaho House member Raul Labrador became a prominent voice against tax and fee hikes, helping propel his upset victory in 2010 to the U.S. House.

Otter will be in the final year of his second term in 2014, but says he is running for a third term. Since his task force identified the big shortfalls in late 2010, Otter hasn’t made a new proposal to raise revenue.

Carlson and AAA are hoping to make the issue a big deal in an election year, something that may spook both Otter and lawmakers. Carlson says a “grassroots initiative” is key to “educate Idahoans, to hear what they have to say, and to promote workable, equitable funding ideas to address the problem.”

The website has a tab to sign up to support the effort.

The pledge of support follows:

I urge the 2014 Idaho Legislature to take action to solve our state’s transportation funding crisis. We need a solution that is fair, transparent and accountable.

I believe Idahoans deserve better roads– for safety, for the economy and for the future. I also believe that the fees and taxes needed to pay for these roads should be equitable and transparent.

We all have a stake in Idaho’s roads – and we should all pay our fair share. I support “Better Roads, Fair Funding” for all Idahoans.


Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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