Jack Hatch, the state senator who is the Democratic Party’s candidate for governor, says he’d support a phased-in, 10-cent increase in the state gas tax.
“I would increase the gas tax over five years, two cents a year, to go toward repairing the roads in rural Iowa, to make the farm-to-market roads better, to make the manufacturing-to-retail roads better,” Hatch said this morning. “…We have an obligation to make sure that the hard-working businesses get their products to market.”
Republican Terry Branstad has not used the bully pulpit of the governor’s office to call for an increase in the gas tax, but Branstad has repeatedly said if legislators were to pass a bill to raise the state tax on motor fuel, he’d sign it into law.
“This is one of the disappointing elements, I think, of Branstad’s lack leadership. He ran four years ago implying to people that he was going to increase the gas tax, that he was repair the roads, he was repair the bridges. We were going to have commerce that was going to be created more in our rural areas….This is one good example of people saying they represent rural Iowa,” Hatch says. “I’m from urban Iowa. I’m a Democrat liberal. I would increase the gas tax.”
Hatch made his comments during taping of the “Iowa Press” program which airs Friday night on Iowa Public Television.
Iowa’s current gas tax rate was set in 1989. State transportation officials say with reduced gas tax collections because vehicles get more miles to the gallon, the state is more than $215 million short of what’s needed to maintain and expand the state’s transportation network. Critics of a gas tax increase point to record road construction spending and they say most Iowans oppose the tax hike.
Tommy Schultz, a spokesman for Branstad’s campaign, issued a written statement, calling Hatch’s assertions on the gas tax “juvenile.”
“More typical drivel from a struggling, broke campaign. Jack Hatch knows his stale, liberal ideas won’t sell to Iowa voters, so he is resorting to nasty, D.C.-style attacks,” Schultz said.
(This post was updated at 12:16 p.m. with additional information.)