The Iowa House has voted to save about $130,000 by dramatically reducing the number of Iowa maps the state buys and hands out for free.
House Republicans who’ve been looking for ways to cut the state budget argue most people are using electronic maps these days, reducing demand for paper maps of the State of Iowa. Using a smartphone or GPS device, you just type in your address and your destination. A map pops up on the screen. Some provide directions from an electronic voice.
House Reppublicans have voted to set aside just $80,000 in the Iowa Department of Transportation’s budget for printing paper maps next year. Officials estimate fewer than 400,000 maps would be printed this year compared to the 1.4 million Iowa maps that were printed in 2011. Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines who leads the senate panel that drafts the DOT’s bugdet, says he’s willing to go along.
“Let’s give it a try,” McCoy says, “and if we find out people are upset because there aren’t enough maps, we’ll print more the following year.”
Representative Dan Huseman, a Republican from Aurelia, voted to cut the DOT’s budget for maps, but he suspects there will be a backlash.
“The department printed 1.4 million maps and they have about 85,000 left, so that tells me that people are still using them,” Huseman says. “They gave away about 700,000 of them at the rest areas, so people are stopping and using them.”
Other Republicans point to the 85,000 maps sitting in boxes somewhere as government waste.
Dena Gray-Fisher of the Iowa DOT says it’s up to legislators to decide how many maps are printed.
“People still appreciate and value that printed map,” Gray-Fisher says. “Especially if you’re doing pre-trip planning, it’s helpful to actually get that big map out and look at your route.”
It cost the state 15 cents a map to get the most recent maps printed. The DOT estimates the per-map cost will go up if the state cuts the size of its printing order by 70 percent.
In addition to maps that are handed out for travelers, Iowa schools use the free maps to teach students how to read a map.
All states offer free maps, according to Gray-Fisher, but the quantities available vary. She says some states sell advertising on the maps to pay for the printing.