Governor Terry Branstad says he won’t threaten to veto a gas tax increase like his Democratic predecessor Chet Culver did, but Branstad says public opinion is against the idea and that’s why his DOT director has drawn up a list alternative fee and tax hikes.

“And that is being discussed with different interest groups and legislators and I guess I’m interested to see what kind of support there might be for those ideas, other ideas and where it might be,” Branstad says. “I do respect the fact that a lot of Iowans are very concerned about the high cost of commuting to work and raising the gas tax is not a popular thing with the citizens of this state.”

One idea would impose the tax on the red-dyed fuel farmers use for their mostly off-road driving, boosting state fuel tax collections by $38 million. Another would raise the state sales tax on vehicle sales from five to six percent.  The ideas were given to interest groups and key legislators first, then someone passed the list to the media. Branstad says unlike his education reform effort that involved public hearings and a summit, he wanted to avoid “making a big ballyhoo” about the ideas.

“The goal would be over the next couple of months:  Does a consensus develop around something or not? And I guess time will tell whether that happens.” Branstad says.

“…There’s not one approach that works for every issue. I think you have to analyze the situation and look at what options, what alternatives make the most sense and this is the approach we thought made sense. We know it won’t be easy and we know that if you’re going to deal with this issue of the Road Use Tax Fund, from looking at it historically, it’s always taken bipartisan consensus to accomplish it.”

Branstad made his comments this morning during his weekly news conference. Audio of the event is posted here.

Branstad approved a gas tax increase in 1989, the last time the gas tax was raised. Branstad was reelected the following year with 60 percent of the vote, but Branstad says “a lot of factors” go into deciding elections.