Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch says “years of neglect” have left Iowa’s roads and bridges in terrible shape and it’s time to raise the state gas tax by 10 cents a gallon over the next five years.
“I know some will say that the gas tax increase is politically unpopular,” Hatch told reporters in a conference call this afternoon. “I believe it is perceived that way because we have never explained it well enough and our leaders have failed to lead.”
Hatch also proposes dedicating one-fifth of the state’s surplus to infrastructure projects like school upgrades, expanded broadband service in rural Iowa and rebuilt sewer and water systems. Hatch said his “Building a Better Iowa” Plan will address the state’s infrastructure deficit.
“Construction on infrastructure is one of the most inflationary sectors of the economy and the longer we wait, the more we are going to pay,” Hatch said. “We have talked about this problem many times, but we have never done anything and we have simply been sitting by, watching the situation drift towards a crisis.”
AUDIO of Hatch conference call, 12:00
Hatch said he’ll be able to sell this gas tax hike to Iowans because he’s also proposing an income tax cut for middle class Iowans.
“And on top of that, we have a large surplus and we have a large deficit when it comes to infrastructure,” Hatch said, “so if we don’t pay for it now we’ll be paying for it even greater in the future or it will disintegrate and decline.”
Republican Governor Terry Bransad has indicated he would sign a gas tax hike into law, if legislators approved the move, but he has not openly advocated for it. Branstad’s DOT director has recently started circulating a list of ways to increase taxes and fees on Iowans for things like vehicle purchases and using off-road fuel rather than increasing the state gas tax. Hatch said it’s time for Branstad to quit trying to “cobble together” a plan and support an approach that deals with the problem of crumbling infrastructure.
“I think part of our problem is that when we talk about any tax or any fee, you have politicians running for the closet,” Hatch said. “They certainly talk about wanting to solve the problem, but they don’t know how to bundle these issues together to talk about some real solutions.”
Lowell Junkins, the Democrat who challenged Branstad’s first bid for reelection in 1986, proposed that the state borrow 400-million dollars to invest in infrastructure projects, prompting Branstad to call his opponent “Junk Bond Junkins.” In 2010, when Branstad successfully ran for a fifth term, he repeatedly blasted Democratic Governor Chet Culver’s I-JOBS program which saw the state borrow for infrastructure projects. Hatch says he’ll present the “big picture” to Iowans and that’s the way he’ll be able to convince the public his plan is the right approach.
Iowa’s gas tax has not been raised since 1989. Hatch proposes raising it two-cents-a-gallon in each of the next five years.