It appears an increase in the gas tax may be on the agenda in the Iowa legislature — next year. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal says he’s been talking with voters in his district in Council Bluffs about it a lot. “Des Moines had its interstate system rebuilt. Council Bluffs is next in the DOT’s five-year plan,” Gronstal says. “…How many of you want it to take 25 years to finish rebuilding the interstate around Council Bluffs?”
House Republican Leader Christopher Rants of Sioux City says an increase in the gas tax is more “palatable” to some people as a means of plugging a shortfall in the state’s road fund. “You collect the tax from the 18-wheeler that’s coming in out of Nebraska and on its way over to Illinois,” Rants says.
Governor Chet Culver has said now is not the time to raise the gas tax when pump prices are so high, but he said this week a discussion about raising the gas tax in 2009 or after might be in order. “That may give some hope to those folks who want to see a fuel tax being done next year,” Rants says. “The question being that legislators will have to wrestle with in the next week is: do you just wait until next year or do you do something now?”
Lawmakers appear poised to approve a package that would raise license fees for new vehicles to bring in about 20 million more dollars in the next year — far below the estimated 200-million dollar shortfall in the state’s road construction and maintenance fund. Gronstal, the Democratic leader in the state Senate, says legislative leaders of both parties agree that package should “move forward.”
“I think Iowans would like to see improvements in their transportation infrastructure and so I think there’s very strong interest in getting something done this session,” Gronstal says. The new, higher license fees being considered would apply to vehicles in the 2010 model year. But the package which has advanced through committees in both the House and the Senate does not include a hike in the gas tax.