July 11, 2014

State gas tax increase “doubtful” in 2013

Two key legislative leaders say Iowans probably aren’t going to see the state gas tax go up this year.

Senate President Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque, says calls prospects for a gas tax increase “doubtful.”

“I don’t know that it’s completely dead, but we all have said, I think both parties have said from the start is that the only way we’re going to increase that gas tax is if there is bipartisan support,” Jochum says. “So in (the Senate) it meant 14 Democrats, 13 Republicans…27 yes votes so that no one legislator would be, you know, the finger would be pointed and say: ‘It’s your vote that raised that gas tax.’”

Groups like the Iowa Farm Bureau and the Associated General Contractors of Iowa say there’s not enough money to fix the state’s roads and bridges because the state gas tax hasn’t been raised in 24 years. Earlier this week those groups touted a report suggesting Iowans are paying $1.9 billion a year in extra vehicle costs because Iowa roads and bridges are deficient, congested and lack updated safety features.

House Republican Leader Linda Upmeyer of Clear Lake says lawmakers will have vote to cut property taxes and income taxes first before the GOP would consider raising the gas tax.

“Our position from the beginning is that before we consider increasing taxes, we need to make sure the taxpayers in Iowa have more money in their pockets when we close session than when we came in,” Upmeyer says.

It’s unclear what tax cuts may emerge from the 2013 Iowa Legislature. Republicans who control the House agenda favor reducing commercial property tax rates. Democrats who control the Senate propose a credit for commercial property owners. The two parties have proposed different ways to cut income taxes, too.

The two legislative leaders made their comments this morning during a taping of the “Iowa Press” program that airs tonight at 7:30 on Iowa Public Television.