The debate continues over a proposal to increase the state gas tax, and it’s likely to continue until the issues is decided one way or other in the state legislature next year. The Governor’s Transportation Citizen Advisory Commission is recommending an increase of eight to 10 cents for each gallon to fund millions of dollars in road and bridge repairs.
Some, like State Representative Nick Wagner, a Republican from Marion, say the issue can be addressed by better use of the existing money. “And I think the thing we need to focus on is not perhaps maybe increasing dollars, but making sure the dollars we do have are going to the places where there is the highest level of traffic and the highest level of use, Wagner says.
Wagner says there are some very visible examples of how dollars could be used differently. “As we drive down the Interstate we are seeing that we are putting in new rest areas to the tune of 20 to 30 million dollars, and perhaps that would be better spent on bridges and roads, Wagner said.
State Senator Tom Reilly, a Democrat from Oskaloosa, supports the increase, saying the last time it was raised was in 1989. Reilly says the money would be dedicated to one thing. Reilly says the gas tax money is constitutionally protected and can only go to roads and bridges. He says the cost to the average individual would be 50 to 60 dollars each year, and about 20-percent of that is paid for by people outside the state of Iowa.
Reilly says costs have gone up while the Department of Transportation has laid off hundreds of workers and closed dozens of field offices to become more efficient. “We just deferred this maintenance way too long, I think we have done our efficiencies, I just think we need to, maybe, look at a revenue adjustment,” Reilly says. Reilly and Wagner made their comments on the Iowa Public Radio program “The Exchange”.