A veteran Democrat in the Iowa legislature says the state’s roads and bridges are in disrepair and it’s time to increase the state gas tax to finance the rebuilding. Senate President Jack Kibbie points to studies indicating 30 percent of the state’s bridges are unsafe for trucks to drive across.
“I suppose we’re going to have to wait ’til a school bus falls through a bridge, then we’ll wake up,” Kibbie says.
Republican Governor Terry Branstad appointed a task force to study the issue and the group recommended an increase in the gas tax of between eight- and 10-cents per gallon, but Branstad quickly rejected the recommendation of his own panel. Kibbie calls that a mistake and suggests legislators should go ahead and vote to increase the gas tax and see what Branstad does.
“You know, I can remember when the current governor was governor before,” Kibbie says. “…I can name you five or six bills that are now law today, major legislation that he changed his mind on and signed the bills.”
One would be the bill which created the Iowa Lottery. Another was a bill Branstad vowed to veto which raised the state’s minimum wage in 1990 a year in which Branstad was seeking reelection.
Kibbie says increasing the gas tax would provide an economic spark to the state by putting more construction crews to work on road projects. “And I don’t know, there’s 900 and some mayor in Iowa,” Kibbie says. “They ought to be walking to the legislature and telling us how bad the streets are.”
Nearly half of the state’s gas taxes are used on “primary” roads maintained by the state. About a quarter of the money is used on “secondary” roads maintained by counties. Twenty percent goes to cities for streets.
Governor Branstad has called on the Iowa DOT to find $50 million in its budget to redirect to road and bridge construction and maintainence. Kibbie says he’s all for saving money, but the state of Iowa’s road system requires a more “serious” approach. Officials estimate they are more than $1.5 billion short of meeting transportation infrastructure needs in the state right now.
The state gas tax has not been raised since 1989.