Competing proposals to cover a shortfall in the state’s road fund are on a collision course at the statehouse. House and Senate committees have voted to raise registration and license fees for all vehicles. But the two sides can’t agree on whether pickup trucks should be charged fees that’re equal to what’s charged to similar vehicles. Senator John Putney is a Republican from Gladbrook who’s taken up one side in this fight. Putney says it’s "logical" that pickup truck fees should be based on the weight and value of the truck, just like other vehicles, because most pickups are owned by non-farmers.
"It’s straight forward. It diminishes the potential for loopholes, red tape and abuses," Putney says. "I believe it to be the most…palatable option of all."
But Senator Mark Zieman, a Republican from Postville, says Putney’s heart may be in the right place, but it’s not the best political position to take. "What he’s after is to get the ‘urban cowboys,’" Zieman says. "I understand that, but I just think there’s going to be supporters of the bill who’re going to fall off and it’s going to make it that much harder to pass."
The House side in this debate is proposing an exemption for farmers and businesses that own pickups, so their license fees would remain low. Zieman warns raising pickup truck fees significantly will have big ramifications. "I don’t know politically if it’s worth the hassle for what little we’re going to get for it," Zieman says. "…Some of these businesses that have a lot of pickups, this is a big impact."
Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, praised Putney and others who support raising the pickup fees to equal other vehicles that’re similar in size and weight. "It’s the right thing to do. I think it’s a courageous vote for you to take," McCoy said during Thursday’s Senate Transportation Committee meeting.
Officials estimate charging pickup trucks the same license fees as similar vehicles will raise an additional $77 million over the next 10 years, money that would be used for maintenance and construction of Iowa roads.