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Raise the state gas tax

Posted: Mon, Jan 23, 2012 5:16 PM

As the legislature has convened it should give serious consideration to the unanimous, bi-partisan recommendations of Governor Branstad's Transportation 2020 Commission regarding highway funding.  Those recommendations include increasing the state's gas tax and the fee for purchase on vehicles to help fund the additional $215 million annually to meet critical highway and bridge needs.

Iowa's roads are funded on a user fee concept through gas taxes, registration fees, licenses, etc.  Over 95 percent of those revenues are constitutionally protected meaning they can only go for the purposes for which they are collected, i.e.; construction and maintenance of Iowa's roads.  Iowans have come to depend on highway infrastructure to get products to market, kids to school, and to attract further development in the state.  The average driver will pay less than $50 a year more under the Commission's proposal.  I believe Iowans would be willing to pay additional gas taxes for the roads they use, if they thought their roads and bridges would be safer and the money is protected from being spent on other things.

Consider this:
1.    Iowa has not raised the gas tax since 1989.
2.    Iowa's roadway conditions ranks in the bottom 25% of states in rural interstate condition, bottom 15% in urban interstate condition, bottom 10% in rural arterial condition, and 3rd worst in the nation in number of structurally deficient bridges.
3.    During the last 20 years total travel in Iowa across all systems has increased 36%, with large truck travel increasing 42% during the period.
4.    While we have experienced increased travel, increased fuel efficiency has diminished the ability of excise taxes on fuel (gas taxes) to continue to generate necessary revenues.  Iowa now collects more in vehicle registration fees than gas taxes.
5.    Inflation has played a significant role in diminishing the buying power of road funding.  Between 2004 and 2008, the construction cost index grew by 67%, the largest five-year increase in construction costs since the measure has been tracked.

If Iowans want better roads and are willing to pay for it they should urge their legislator to support the Transportation 2020 Commission's recommendations this session.

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