Governor Branstad will not recommend an increase in the gas tax, but has said he would sign one into law if members of the legislature approve it. Scott Newhard of the Associated General Contractors of Iowa used an appearance this week in Branstad’s office to urge the governor to reconsider that passive approach.
“Your leadership in addressing highway infrastructure investment needs is needed,” Newhard said. “The people of Iowa who depend on the quality and safety of their roadways are looking to you and the legislature to address that issue this session.”
Newhard also reminded the governor that Branstad’s own advisory group recommended increasing the gas tax by a dime per gallon.
“Your Transportation 2020 Commission has made a unanimous, bipartisan recommendation to increase the current revenue base by $215 million additional dollars per year over the next 20 years to deal with state and local critical highway and bridge needs,” Newhard said.
Branstad’s commission made that 10-cent increase in the gas tax recommendation in November of last year, but the governor did not embrace the plan. Instead, Branstad told the head of the Iowa DOT to pare $50 million from the agency’s operating budget to redirect to road projects. The spokesman for the road builders told Branstad that kind of reallocation isn’t the answer for the future.
“We urge the state government to resist bonding, tolling or using General Fund dollars to deal with this problem,” Newhard said. “Rather, we encourage you to look at sources of revenue that are constitutionally required to be spent on road, are user-fee based and that the road construction be based on a pay-as-you-go system.”
The state constitution requires gas tax money to be deposited into the Road Use Tax Fund and used for road construction. Newhard made his comments during a Thursday afternoon public hearing about the state budget that was held in the governor’s office, with Branstad himself presiding. Branstad merely said, “Thank you for your presentation,” after Newhart’s remarks — and invited the next speaker to step forward.