Governor Terry Branstad says raising the state’s gas tax or “user fee” for the state’s transportation system should be on the legislature’s agenda in 2013.
“I think next year’s the year to do it. Now, already since the (2012) legislature adjourned we’ve seen the price of gas drop significantly,” Branstad says. “The biggest problem with doing it this year was the extremely high price of gas, but I’ll tell you, I saw in Bondurant the other day on the way back from Marshalltown gas at $3.27 and 9/10ths.”
Branstad appointed a task force last year to study the state of Iowa’s roads and bridges. The group recommended raising the state tax gas, but Branstad rejected the idea and, instead, asked the director of the Iowa Department of Transportation to find $50 million in savings within the agency’s budget to redirect to road construction and repairs. Branstad says he’s confident his fellow Republicans in the legislature will embrace the idea of raising the gas tax next year.
“Listen, along with comprehensive tax reductions, I think we can,” Branstad says.
Republican legislators have already started talking about reducing the state’s income tax next year and the GOP pledges to continue its push to cut commercial property taxes. Branstad says coming up with a “fair and equitable system” for financing roads and bridges should include ensuring electric cars and vehicles that run on natural gas “pay their fair share.”
“I also think that whatever’s done should be phased in over a period of time,” Branstad says.
In the just-concluded 2012 legislative session a bipartisan group of lawmakers tried but failed to win passage of a plan that would have phased in a gas tax increase up to a dime a gallon over the next two of three years. The group got significant push-back from the auto industry over provisions that would have raised the registration fees for hybrid vehicles, electric cars and vehicles that run on natural gas. Branstad suggests a fee based on the mileage might be one answer.
“If we do that in conjunction with comprehensive tax reform, you can actually show that people will pay less taxes,” Branstad says, “and the people that will pay more in user fees are the ones that are going to get the benefit of better roads and bridges.”
Branstad made his comments late this morning at Iowa Public Television where he taped an appearance on IPTV’s “Iowa Press” program that airs tonight at 7:30.