BOISE — A bill that would create a dyed fuel enforcement program in Idaho has been introduced in the Legislature.
Members of the Senate Transportation Committee voted unanimously Feb. 2 to print the bill, by Sen. Bert Brackett, a Republican rancher from Rogerson and the committee’s chairman.
Brackett said his bill would create a basic enforcement program with the goal of stopping any illegal use of dyed fuel, which is also called dyed diesel and is exempt from state and federal fuel taxes because it’s only for use in off-road, unlicensed vehicles.
“We don’t want a bloated bureaucracy with this,” he told Food Producers of Idaho members recently. “The goal is not to increase revenue through penalties. It’s to increase compliance.”
“The whole gist of this proposal is that it will be reasonable,” Brackett said.
Dyed fuel is heavily used in the agricultural, mining, timber and construction industries.
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation and Food Producers of Idaho both sent white papers to lawmakers outlining their concerns about a possible dyed fuel enforcement program.
Brackett said those papers were helpful as he was putting the proposal together and his legislation addresses their concerns.
Law enforcement officers in Idaho currently don’t have authority to test fuel tanks for dyed fuel, which is tinted red so it can be easily identified. Brackett’s bill would allow certain officers and weigh stations to do that.
A 2106 report by the state tax commission, state police and transportation department estimated that as much as $11 million worth of the fuel is illegally used in Idaho each year.
IFBF’s white paper challenges that premise.
Based on the report’s estimate, that means about 37 million gallons of dyed fuel was used illegally on Idaho highways in 2015, IFBF pointed out. “We question whether one-sixth of the dyed fuel consumed in ... Idaho is illegally used on Idaho’s highways.”
But IFBF and other farm groups have told lawmakers that they are willing to discuss a dyed fuel enforcement program as long as it doesn’t unfairly target agriculture and isn’t burdensome.
Brackett’s bill would set the fine for a first offense at $250. It would go to $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for a third offense.
The FPI and IFBF white papers oppose joint jurisdiction of an enforcement program with the federal Internal Revenue Service.
“Yes, Idaho will have sole jurisdiction over the program,” Brackett said. “There will be no joint jurisdiction with the IRS.”
The white papers also called for an outreach and education program before the program goes into effect, and Brackett said that would happen. His legislation would be effective July 1 and require a six-month outreach effort before enforcement actions begin.
That means any enforcement wouldn’t begin until early next year.
“That’s ample time to get the word out,” Brackett said.