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Iowa Gov. Rules Out Taxes, Fees, and Tolls to Fund Transportation Projects

To the chagrin of many state legislators, Gov. Terry Branstad opposes new revenue measures to fund transportation projects, as he believes he is following the wishes of his constituents. Tax cuts, not increases, are on his agenda.
June 17, 2013, 10am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Pointing to the current gas price spikes in the Midwest, Gov. Branstad asserted that "public support for a gas tax increase has evaporate(d)". He suggested two alternatives revenue measures "to fund critical road and bridge upgrades in the future", writes Rod Boshart.  

  • State gambling profits, and 
  • A dedicated share of the state sales tax.

Indeed, the highest gas prices in the U.S. are in the Midwest due to "refineries undergoing maintenance", according to Reuters.

“I think the idea of year after year coming back and saying we’ve got to raise the gas tax [last increased in 1989] when the public is strongly opposed to it doesn’t make a lot of sense,” added Branstad. He said he is not looking to increase any tax or fee, but he ruled out collecting tolls on roadways as an option.

For those who think that the road construction lobby is all-powerful, think again.

“I think (road-construction interests) have to come to the realization that they don’t have public support to raise the gas tax and it’s probably not going to happen in an election year,” he said.

Branstad directed "Department of Transportation Director Paul Trombino III and other interested groups to 'think outside the box' and come up with new ideas for financing the construction and maintenance of Iowa’s road system."      

In fact, tax cuts, not increases, appear to be occupying the governor, who "said he hoped to build on a tax-policy compromise he will sign into law next week that provides the largest tax cut in state history, saying more property and income tax relief is needed..."; adding, "I think it’s very likely we’ll be looking at reducing the income tax further in the 2014 legislative session." Boshart noted that while Branstad hadn't decided on whether to run for "an unprecedented sixth term...(he) sounded very much like a candidate during Friday’s interview".

Not all politicians are as convinced of the public's opposition to increasing gas taxes.

James Q. Lynch writes in the Mason City Globe Gazette that Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob Dvorsky stated "(t)here was a 'boomlet' of support for increasing the gas tax for the first time in 24 years. He thought there were enough votes in the Senate, but support evaporated in the House."

Reinforcing the bi-partisan nature of increasing gas taxes to pay for needed transportation projects, Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, stated, “I know there were a lot of unhappy people that a fuel tax didn’t pass this year. The illusion we were given was that if we had property tax reform that a gas tax would be approved.”

“We had the votes,” Kaufmann insisted.

Full Story:
Published on Friday, June 7, 2013 in Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier
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