Tue, Nov 9, 2021 11:59 AM
By Ted O’Neil | The Center Square contributor, The Center Square
(The Center Square) – Idaho will receive $2 billion under the infrastructure bill that cleared Congress last week and that President Joe Biden has pledged to sign.
The $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act won final approval Friday in the House of Representatives with the help of 13 Republicans voting in favor. Those votes were needed after six Democrats voted against the measure, saying it does not spend enough. It passed the Senate in August.
Idaho’s two Republican senators, James Risch and Mike Crapo, were among six Republican senators to vote in favor of the bill.
“The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act does not raise taxes,” Crapo said in a statement. “It reprioritizes the use of COVID relief funds away from bailouts and idle funds, shifting them toward supply-side investments that will provide benefits to Idahoans for many years. It contains counter-inflationary measures focused primarily on long-term productivity rather than near-term demand. This is especially critical right now, as rising prices impact families and small businesses across America.”
The Biden Administration has said that $210 billion in unspent COVID-19 relief money will be shifted toward the spending, along with $53 billion in federal unemployment money that states did not spend. Sales from the nation’s petroleum reserves will also go toward paying for it.
Idaho’s neighbors to the west, Washington and Oregon, will receive $8.6 billion and $1.2 billion, respectively.
The bulk of the money Idaho will receive over the five years that the bill maps out will go toward highway and bridge repairs.
A 2018 report from the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Idaho a grade of C- for the overall condition of its infrastructure. The state has 1,100 highway miles in need of repair, and studies show that drivers pay and average of $394 a year on vehicle repairs that are caused by poor road conditions.
The state also has 286 bridges that are considered to be structurally deficient. Such a designation, however, does not mean a bridge is unsafe to drive on or in imminent danger of collapsing.
Idaho will also receive $100 million to increase access to high-speed broadband access. Some 12% of the state’s residents currently do not have access to internet.
Another $30 million will go toward building electric vehicle charging stations, part of a $7.5 billion plan to increase the EV charging network nationwide.
The infrastructure bill also repeals the Employee Retention Credit, making it something that Idaho and other businesses will not be able to claim on wages paid after September, and strengthens the tax reporting requirement for cryptocurrency transactions.