A Democratic leader predicts the Iowa Legislature will vote to end the break pick-up truck owners get on their license fees. House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines says it’s "very likely" legislators will end what he calls an "inequity" between what most vehicle owners pay in license fees compared to what pick-up owners pay.
Pick-up trucks are charged a flat fee, $65 annually, while other vehicles are charged significantly higher fees based on the weight of the vehicle. McCarthy says the increase in pick-up truck fees probably won’t be immediate, but will be phased in over time.
"What we’re going to try to do is craft things in a way that don’t hit Iowans’ pocketbooks immediately," McCarthy says. "…And over time, it depends on what formula you put together, you get to generating the type of revenue that you need." Officials say the state fund for road construction and maintenance is running low and some have pressed for an increase in the state gas tax, which is the primary funding source for the road fund.
Governor Culver has said he won’t sign a gas tax hike and McCarthy says there is no way Democrats or Republicans in the legislature will vote for a gas tax increase either. "Because of the war in Iraq, because of the high price of oil right now — therefore we’re paying a lot for a gallon of gas — it’s not something that’s very popular right now," McCarthy says. McCarthy suggests lawmakers may find another way to increase payments into the road construction fund.
"Probably what we’re going to do that makes the most sense and generates a lot of money as you move forward — right now when you purchase of new vehicle, like a Ford Taurus, you may be paying…$300 for your registration and then (as the car) gets older, (the registration fee) gets less and less and less all the way down, if it’s old enough, to eight bucks if you drive it long enough," McCarthy says.
"We probably will establish a floor so as your vehicle gets older it stops at some point and that registration fee continues because you continue to drive on the roads and older cars beat up the roads just as much as newer cars." McCarthy says legislative leaders from both parties will sit down privately next week and try to devise a final package to deal with the shortfall in state road construction money. McCarthy made his comments during a weekend appearance on Iowa Public Television. The Iowa Legislature convenes this morning at 10 o’clock in Des Moines.