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Paul Scott Comment: The time is right to raise the state road tax

Posted: Sun, Oct 9, 2011 9:30 PM

Governor Terry Branstad's Transportation 2020 Advisory Commission will meet this week and again in two weeks to try to decide what recommendations to make about funding for Iowa's roads and highways.

One possible recommendation would be an increase in the state's gas tax--perhaps 10 cents per gallon.

With the American economy still struggling to get out of a recession, increasing any tax is going to be a bit of a rough sell.  But increasing the gas tax is the right thing to do.

Iowa's road tax hasn't been increased since 1989.  You can imagine what has happened to costs during that time.  So with fewer dollars to spend on highway construction, when adjusted for inflation, Iowa's roads and bridges have gotten ignored.

Iowa Department of Transportation officials say the state needs to raise $215 million annually in additional fund to meet critical road needs in Iowa.

The recent public hearings on Iowa's transportation needs--including a recent one in Waterloo attended by 20 or so people from Winneshiek County--brought together an unusual coalition of county supervisors, construction companies, businessmen and farmers, all with the same message--Iowa's roads are falling apart and need more money to fix them.

Iowa Tea Party officials have said they will fight any tax increase.  One Tea Party official said the $215 million could be found instead by cutting "waste."  But the representative didn't specify what "waste" he was talking about.  And such talk is a way of avoiding the hard truth--we need to spend extra money on roads and bridges to keep Iowa economically competitive. Now is not the time to turn down a gas tax increase.  Good roads will benefit all of us in Iowa--they're worth the money.