Committee Makes Key Decision on Small County Road Funding Change
September 14, 2016
The AOC Transportation Steering Committee met for the first time since May on September 12, 2016. With a packed room, members engaged in spirited conversation over a number of important transportation topics. Co-Chair Commissioner Sid Leiken of Lane County presided over the meeting. He led the committee through a discussion on the progress of the Joint Committee on Transportation Preservation and Modernization currently touring the state to learn about the needs and wants of Oregon communities in advance of the anticipated development of a 2017 funding package. Recurring themes continue to be the need to “go big,” to adequately fund transit and improve seismic resiliency. Also discussed was whether larger urban counties (most specifically the greater Portland-metro region) will be forced to go out for a regional funding package in the event a state funding package is small.
In addition, John Vial from Jackson County and Chris Doty from Deschutes County presented on a new proposal to provide a more adequate level of funding for counties with small populations, few registered vehicles and a large number of road miles to maintain. These counties receive such a small share of state highway fund dollars that (combined with the diminished amount of timber revenue), they are barely able to maintain a skeleton road department. To address this problem, a new fund would be created with the first $5 million of new revenue flowing to counties under a transportation funding package. This fund would utilize a different formula to help balance the discrepancy in the current funding formula. It’s important to note, this would only apply to new revenue, would be capped at $5 million and would result in a scenario where all counties see an increase in their overall road department revenue. As a result the Transportation Steering Committee voted to approve the concept and the AOC Legislative Committee unanimously approved it later in the day.