Governor Branstad says he’s open to the idea of charging a new fee to owners of vehicles that run on natural gas or electric cars that use very little, if any, gasoline.

The state tax on gasoline is used to finance the construction and maintenance of Iowa’s roads and bridges, but the gas tax fund is running short and the owners of newer vehicles are contributing less to the fund.

“We’re going to more fuel-efficient vehicles,” Branstad says. “We’re going to hybrid vehicles, electric vehicles. We’re seeing trucks now going to natural gas and we could see a dramatic change.”

A special commission Branstad appointed has recommended raising the state tax on gasoline by up to 10 cents per gallon and the group recommended a study of how to assess new fees for energy-efficient vehicles. Branstad’s not yet endorsing the gas tax increase, nor is he suggesting how a new fee might be structured for electric cars and other vehicles which use little or no gasoline. 

“I want to see us go through and look at this in a thoughtful and systematic way,” Branstad says. “I don’t think that there’s any particular panaceo to how we address it.” 

According to the governor, there are “a lot of things that can be done” to address the “dramatic change” in the fuel-efficiency of vehicles on the road today.

“We also need to look at what kind of administrative savings can be had at the Department of Transportation and city and county level to address this,” Branstad says. “But we do recognize that infrastructure is important to economic development.”

The governor has asked members of the state Transportation Commission to review these issues and make a recommendation to him in December.