The Iowa Senate has voted to raise vehicle registration and title fees to begin filling a hole in the state’s road construction budget. The Department of Transportation says they need 200-million dollars more to keep up with maintenance and promised expansion of the state’s transportation network.
Senator Tom Reilly, a Democrat from Oskaloosa, says gas taxes and other fees paid into the state’s road fund has increased less than two percent in each of the past five years. "While at the same time expenses have increased significantly: the cost of concrete, the cost of asphalt, the cost of gas, the cost of oil, the cost of insurance, the cost of steel," Reilly says.
Senate Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, says it’s time to do something. "Forty-five percent of Iowa roads are considered to be in mediocre to poor shape. Twenty-eight percent of Iowa bridges are structurally deficient and functionally obsolete," McCoy says.
The bill approved Tuesday night in the Iowa Senate will eventually raise up to 160 million more dollars a year, but not right away. The new license fees will only apply to new vehicles, not the cars and trucks Iowans already own. Senator Jeff Angelo, a Republican from Creston, unsuccessfully argued other state tax revenue rather than raising license fees should be used to fill the gap in state’s road construction budget.
"When we began to identify a deficit in road spending in Iowa, we almost completely assumed the debate would end with some type of tax and fee increase, that it was never broadly assumed that we would find in our existing budget the needed dollars," Angelo says. Other critics contend lawmakers will almost certainly discuss raising gasoline taxes next year, a move that makes all who use the roads shoulder the increased burden of road maintenance rather than just Iowans who own vehicles. The next stop for this year’s debate over raising vehicle license fees is the House.