Advocates of an increase in the state gas tax say they’re encouraged after meeting with the governor this morning. Governor Branstad told the group raising the gas tax isn’t a priority for him this year, but he won’t rule it out in the future.

Former Governor Culver repeatedly vowed to veto a gas tax increase, and Branstad’s comments are welcome news for people like Carroll City Manager Gerald Clausen who is in Des Moines for “Transportation Day” at the capitol.

“It gives us hope that it’s not an outright no,” Clausen says. “It’s an opportunity to build on something and I think that’s what the people of this state really want is some opportunities to be able to move forward with funding for roadways that many people notice are not what they used to be.”

The state fuel taxes drivers pay when they fill up in Iowa are dedicated to road construction and maintainence projects, but the state gas tax has remained the same since 1989. Supporters of a gas tax hike say the costs of maintaining and building new roads has skyrocketed since then and state officials say they have $250-million worth of road projects that should be completed this year but won’t, because there’s not enough gas tax money for it.

Clinton Chamber of Commerce president Julie Allesee says drivers know Iowa’s streets and roads need repair. “We’ve seen the roads deteriorate even more throughout these bad winters,” Allesee says. “All of our cities and counties across the entire state are in despicable condition and we’re not raising enough money for repair, let alone new development.”

People like Allesee who work on business development, plus representatives of the associations for Highways 34, 30 and 20 visited with legislators this afternoon about the state’s transportation network.