Senate Republican leaders today proposed using gambling revenue to help cover a shortfall in state road funding. The Department of Transportation has asked the legislature to come up with an additional $200 million dollars a year to maintain Iowa’s highway system.
Senator Jim Seymour, a Republican from Woodbine says $90 million of that could come from the casinos. "This plan makes a lot of sense," Seymour said at a statehouse news conference. "We will not raise taxes on the people of Iowa, yet we will address the bridges and the roads that are important to our economy."
Traditionally, gambling revenue is used for state and university building projects, but the GOP lawmakers say roads are also infrastructure and are equally important. Senator Steve Kettering of Lake View says Democrats have failed to offer any ideas of their own.
"Clearly, Iowans have set a priority for roads and safe bridges in the state of Iowa. Clearly, the legislature has not responded and the governor has not responded," Kettering said. The DOT has recommended an increase in the gas tax and sales tax on new vehicles – as well as higher drivers’ license and pick up registration fees.
Governor Culver has nixed the idea of a gas tax hike and Senate minority leader Ron Wieck says his members aren’t wild about those proposals either. "At a time when we are expecting to see a downward trend in the economy, now is not the time to be dumping more taxes and fees on the backs of Iowans," Wieck said. In addition to using gambling dollars, the Republican lawmakers propose diverting one percent of all state tax collections into the road fund. Wieck admits that will mean cuts to other state programs, but says it’s the more responsible thing to do.