Pick-up truck owners would no longer get a big break on their license fees if a bill advancing in the Iowa Senate becomes law.

The current license fee for trucks is just 65-dollars. It’s a tax break created when farmers drove most of the pick-ups in Iowa.

Senator John Putney, a Republican from Gladbrook, says there’s no reason to maintain what started out as a financial break for farmers. Putney says pick-ups have become more popular with non-farmers. There are nearly seven-hundred-thousand pick-up trucks licensed in Iowa, but only 80-thousand of those — about 11 percent — are driven by farmers.

Senator Eugene Fraise, a Democrat from Fort Madison, argues farmers should continue to get that tax break. “The margin of farming is so tight that they need all the help they can get,” Fraise says.

Fraise says farmers park their tractors in the wintertime and use their pick-ups to do chores, like haul feed. “There may be some very wealthy farmers (who) drive nice, fancy pick-ups around,” Fraise says. “But for the most part if you drive across the state of Iowa, the guys who are actually out there doing the work aren’t driving big fancy pick-ups.”

But Putney resisted the notion that farmers and business owners should be allowed the exemption. “As an example, let’s say a businessman has two pick-ups he runs on the road for service calls, but the third pick-up he uses to pull his $100,000 boat to his $100,000 lake home and it’s a $50,000 pick-up on a $65 license,” Putney says. “Those are just the things that we’re trying to eliminate here.”

Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, agreed. McCoy says the inequity is felt each year by people who have a mini-van or S-U-V pay as much as five-hundred dollars for their plates, while the person driving a pick-up that weighs the same — or even more — pays just 65 dollars.

Senator Dick Dearden, a Democrat from Des Moines, says it’s not like farmers are the only people who use their vehicles for work. Dearden says his son drives a “very nice car” because he’s a mortgage broker and needs to impress people, and Dearden says realtors need nice cars to take clients around to view properties. “Where are we going to stop on this thing? We can make exemptions for a lot of people,” Dearden says. “I don’t see where farmers (are) any particularly special people.”

On Tuesday afternoon, the Senate Transportation Committee voted seven-to-five to advance the bill but Putney concedes the bill probably won’t be approved by the full Senate this year because it’s too controversial to do away the pick-up tax break. “The element that seems to be missing is political courage,” Putney says. McCoy acknowledged it was a difficult vote for members of the Transportation Committee. “This is called ‘Profiles in Courage’ Day,” McCoy joked to the committee.