November 25, 2015

County officials at statehouse, lobbying for gas tax hike

Dozens of county officials from around the state are at the capitol in Des Moines today (Wednesday), lobbying legislators on issues — like the gas tax.  Carl Mattes of Humboldt, a member of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, supports an increase in the state gas tax.

“We’re going to have to do something or our bridges and roads (are) going to fall apart,” Mattes said during an interview. “We need to kick and scream until we get something done — some kind of financing.”

Mattes faulted the governor for failing to “step up” and call on legislators to pass a gas tax increase.

“Some of these hard surface roads may have to go back to gravel,” Mattes said. “We just can’t maintain those and fix bridgews at the same time, so something’s got to give if we don’t get more money somehow.”

Humboldt County Supervisor Rick Pedersen said his county has already closed unsafe bridges and some rural roads.

“People are having to drive further around sections,” Pedersen said during an interview. “A lot of people are worried, especially the elderly, about ambulances. It takes longer to get there.”

Both Pedersen and Mattes concede it’s unlikely legislators will vote in an election year to raise a tax. The last time the gas tax was raised was in 1989, but Governor Branstad said in November that public opinion is against raising it in 2014.  This past fall Branstad’s DOT director came up with a variety of transportation-related fee increases to try to raise more money for roads and bridges, but none of those proposals have advanced in the legislature.

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