Now that the legislature has fixed a problem in the law that kept a big bridge repair and maintenance program from going ahead, the question becomes whether lawmakers will have the courage to promote a tax increase package to fix and maintain the roads to and from those bridges.

Senate transportation committee chairman Bill Stouffer of Napton thinks it will take seven billion dollars to rebuild interstates 70 and 44 into eight-lane roads with four lanes for cars and four separate ones for trucks. In January he thought he had a "decent" chance of getting the legislature to pass a one-cent sales tax to finance the program. It didn’t happen.

And now he’s not sure it will NEXT year. . Tax increases in an election year by a Republican-led legislature?

Stouffer is now doubtful and blames term limits for part of the problem. He says "there’s no reward for a legislator that looks beyond to or four years."

Stouffer says the public is likely to accuse lawmakers of wanting to increase taxes if they pass a bill putting a sales tax increase to a statewide vote. But he says that’s not the case. He says legislators have identified a problem and could offer a solution, leaving it to voters to decide if they will accept it.

Given anticipated inaction by the legislature, Stouffer thinks the only solution will be a petition led by those who would profit from a big road-building program, and by others with an interest in good roads.

Regardless, Stouffer thinks a year-long education campaign is needed to build public understand of the need for the tax.

Download Bob Priddy’s story (:61 mp3)