Iowa license plate In the summer of 2009, Iowans will begin paying higher fees when they buy new vehicles. Governor Chet Culver today signed into law a bill that raises registration fees for new vehicles, starting in the 2010 model year.

During a bill-signing ceremony in the statehouse rotunda, Culver said it wasn’t an easy vote for legislators. "They had to kind of step up to the plate and display, in many cases, a lot of political courage for this legislation to get done," Culver said.

Iowa D.O.T. officials say there’s a huge shortfall in gas taxes and vehicle fees used for road construction and maintenance. In the first year, this new plan will raise about $11 million more, far short of what’s needed, but the governor told legislators months ago now is not the time to raise the gas tax. "As oil prices continue to skyrocket and Iowans are seeing record gas prices at the pump, I believe now is not the time to raise the gas tax," Culver said today.

A couple of weeks ago, Culver said he might approve raising the gas tax next year if candidates get a sense during the fall campaign that Iowans would support the move. Raising the vehicle registration fees is a "good start," according to Culver. "All Americans learned a lesson from the tragedy in Minneapolis," Culver said. "Keeping Iowans safe is a top priority of the Culver/Judge Administration and this bill will allow us to fund road and bridge projects with immediate needs because we can’t afford to wait."

Allen Kemp of the Iowa League of Cities said lawmakers should be praised for taking a tough vote and coming up with more money for the state’s road fund. "It would have been easy at any time to simply abandon this issue, however for those involved it was evident that this was an essential priority for the state of Iowa," Kemp says.

Union County Supervisor Mike King, president of the Iowa State Association of Counties, said Iowa citizens "expect" to drive on a safe transportation system. "The bill lays a foundation for addressing the needs of our roads and (bridges) and infrastructure in Iowa," King said.

Pickup owners have been paying $65 a year to renew their plates. Farmers and business owners who use a pickup for business purposes will be able to continue paying that lower rate for their plates, if they file a particular form when they pay their state income tax.  All other pickup owners will start paying a much higher fee, perhaps three times as high, when they get plates for a new pickup as the fee will be based on the pickup’s weight and value — the same system used to calculate plate fees for cars, minivans and sports utility vehicles.


AUDIO: bill signing ceremony (mp3 runs 16 min)