The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) is endorsing the recommendation of a commission appointed by the governor to raise the state gas tax by up to 10 cents a gallon, while the commission members continue trying to sell the idea to the public.
Iowa Farm Bureau president, Craig Lang, said in the endorsement statement that road repairs are badly needed and an increase in the fuel tax “is the fairest way to fund those repairs because it charges people who actually use the roads whether they live in Iowa or are from out of state.”
The co-chair of the Governor’s Transportation Advisory Commission, Allan Thoms, says he’s been trying to clear up misconceptions about the gas tax. He says many people don’t realize that the law requires the money only be spent on road and bridge repair. Thoms is the former chair of the Iowa Utilities Board and says in his experience the Legislature would be wise to approve the entire increase in a single year.
“It’s better to take your medicine and go with a rate increase than to spread it out over two or three different billing periods because the wrath does not get any better, and the hole just keeps getting bigger,” Thoms said. Thoms says an attorney for Casey’s General Store warned him an eight to ten cent increase in the diesel fuel tax would prompt truck drivers to avoid buying gas in Iowa.
But Thoms says long haul drivers have to log their miles in each state and pay the fuel tax based on those miles. He says these are the kinds of misconceptions the commission will have to overcome to win support for a tax hike.
The Superintendent of the Western Dubuque Community School district, Jeff Corkery, is also on the transportation advisory commission Corkery says it’s bound to be unpopular, but in his district school buses now have to drive 20 minutes out of the way to avoid unsafe bridges.
He says there’s added costs out there that people aren’t seeing because of our transportation shortfalls. The commission is also recommending a one cent increase on the tax Iowans pay when purchasing a new or used vehicle. Combined with a hike in the gas tax, it could raise an additional $280-million each year for road and bridge repair.
And Corkery says this will barely meet the state’s most critical needs. “We’re a billion dollars short a year, we have proposed increases that will only get us to 25 percent of that, so I’m concerned we’re gonna be back here in a another two or three years and maybe haven’t done as much as what we could have done.,” Corkery says.
Corkery and his fellow commission members are writing to newspapers, going on talk shows, and meeting with civic groups to make their case. But they face strong opposition from the Iowa Tea Party whose founding member says it’s the wrong time to raise taxes when unemployment remains high.
The statement from the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation on the gas tax:
WEST DES MOINES, IOWA – Oct. 27, 2011 – With rural roads making up nearly 90,000 miles of the state’s 114,000-mile road system, the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) applauds the Governor’s Transportation 2020 Citizen Advisory Commission recommendation for an additional 8 to 10 cents per gallon fuel tax.
“Our roads and bridges have been severely impacted over the years by flooding and neglect, negatively impacting all of Iowa, but especially our rural communities, businesses and farms. Our members believe it’s imperative to repair the roads and bridges to help rural Iowa thrive,” said Craig Lang, IFBF president. “We believe that an increase in the fuel tax is the fairest way to fund those repairs because it charges people who actually use the roads whether they live in Iowa or are from out of state.”
Lang notes that IFBF delegates in 2008 passed policy calling for the fuel tax increase to repair the state’s roads and bridges.
The tax increase recommendation was made to the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) this week after several listening sessions around the state. The recommendations will be submitted to the Iowa Legislature by the IDOT by the end of the year. The IDOT reports that Iowa needs an additional $215 million per year to meet critical roadway needs and the recommended increase will generate $184 million to $230 million per year.