Governor Branstad told The Cedar Rapids Gazette’s editorial board that he “would definitely consider” signing a bill that eventually raises the state’s gas tax, but first implements a series of cuts in the Iowa Department of Transportation. Governor Branstad has already asked for $50-million in cuts in the D.O.T.’s budget, money that could be redirected to road projects.
D.O.T director Paul Trombino isn’t revealing when that $50-million plan will be released to the public. “We’re still really working through that and we expect to get that done fairly shortly here,” Trombino says. Trombino has met with city and county officials to discuss what he calls “maximizing” the state’s one-point-two billion dollar annual road construction program, but he won’t share details now.
“There’s opportunities for us and I think that we’ve heard that as we’ve met with cities and counties, that there are opportunities for us, you know, and that’s really developing a good connection,” Trombino says. “I view it as something that’s a long-term thing. It’s an active process that we’re going to continue to work through, but we’re going to definitely that meet that challenge.”
D.O.T. officials have identified a 215-million dollar shortfall in the state’s road construction budget. However, Trombino says a bill that cleared congress late in 2011 made “adjustments” that mean an extra $128-million in federal funds for primary roads maintained by the State of Iowa.
“We will have in all likelihood the largest letting of construction activity in the history of the primary system,” Trombino says. “…We really are trying to address as many of those issues (as we can) and there’s going to be a lot of activity that the people will see.” The chairmen of the House and Senate Transportation Committees have proposed a two-tiered approach to the state’s gas tax, raising the tax eight cents a gallon over two years.
They’d also increase the sales tax on vehicles to equal the state sales tax charged on other purchases. Both of those increases would happen after the $50-million in reallocation within the D.O.T. budget.