Governor Terry Branstad says Iowa’s road and bridge building budget needs to be boosted, but raising the state’s fuel tax isn’t the way to go.
“With the high cost of gasoline, which has, you know, spiked to clear nearly $4 a gallon here — it’s even higher in Minnesota and Illinois…and also with the federal governmen tpushing for more and more efficient vehicles and people moving to hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles and now using natural gas for trucks, I think we need to look for a whole new source,” Branstad says.
Branstad would consider dedicating a part of the state’s gambling taxes to road maintenance and construction, plus he’d consider diverting part of the state’s sales tax revenue to roads.
“We used to earmark 10 percent of two cents of the sales tax, before 1975, for the Road Use Tax Fund,” Branstad says.
The state’s road builders have been lobbying legislators and the governor to raise the state’s fuel taxes, as that money is deposited in that Road Use Tax Fund, a constitutionally-protected account that may only be used for transportation infrastructure. These alternative sources of tax money Branstad suggests could be used for roads would not be under that same protection, and might be used for other state projects.
“I think instead of looking at the gas and diesel fuel tax, which is going to be a diminishing source of revenue in the future, we’re going to have to look at a different way to find funding for the Road Use Tax Fund,” Branstad says.
The governor says he’s asked his Department of Transportation director and other interested groups to “think outside the box” and come up with new ideas for financing the construction and maintenance of Iowa’s road system.
“I think the gas tax, in this environment, the public doesn’t want to see the cost of gasoline go up anymore. They’ve seen these dramatic spikes and there’s not public support for that, so I think we need to look at other alternatives,” Branstad says.
Branstad made his remarks this morning during taping of the “Iowa Press” program that airs tonight at 7:30 on Iowa Public Television.