Two key senators say the Iowa legislature will not approve a gas tax increase. The state tax on gasoline and diesel hasn’t been raised since 1989, but Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, says 2013 isn’t the year for an increase.
“I just don’t think there’s an appetite by legislators or the governor to move ahead,” Bolkcom says. “I mean, gas prices have peaked up again and I just don’t see much energy going toward this. I think the gas tax is dead for this session.”
Bolkcom is chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which deals with tax policy. Senator Randy Feenstra of Hull is the top-ranking Republican on the committee and Feenstra says this is “not a good time” to raise the state gas tax with gas prices so high.
“Just filled up myself and it was three dollars and 60-some cents,” Feenstra says. “The federal government’s also talking about a gas tax (hike). Many Iowans live paycheck-by-paycheck and it really is becoming tough when you’re filling up, and if it goes over $4 or around that, that’s going to be really hard on Iowans.”
Advocates for a hike in the state gas tax held a rally at the statehouse this past week. Republican Governor Terry Branstad spoke at the rally and the governor said he’d be willing to sign a bill increasing the state gas tax, if legislators reduce commercial property taxes first. Bolkcom suggests that’s not a strong enough signal from Branstad.
“At the legislative level, we want to be sure that if members take hard votes around the this — ’cause, you know, the polling on this says most Iowans say ‘Don’t raise the taxes,’ — We need to make sure that Governor Branstad is going to sign a bill,” Bolkcom says. “And we just don’t have confidence about that.”
A recent Des Moines Register “Iowa Poll” found 63 percent of Iowans are opposed to raising the gas tax. That’s convincing evidence to Feenstra that the public’s against it.
“I think, maybe, there’s another day, another time that we can look at it,” Feenstra says, “but surely not at this time.”
Feenstra and Bolkcom made their comments during taping of the “Iowa Press” program which airs tonight at 7:30 on Iowa Public Television.