Legislation that would raise the state gas tax is eligible for votes in committees in both the House and Senate this week and Governor Terry Branstad is working behind the scenes to round up votes.
“I’ve had personal discussions with members of both houses on this,” Branstad says. “And we have time set aside to visit with legislators.”
At the beginning of the year Branstad and other legislative leaders had expressed the hope the bill could be passed through both the House and Senate by this week.
“We’ve been working with the bipartisan leadership in both the House and the Senate since the beginning of the session on this and obviously our goal is to get bipartisan support in both houses to get this accomplished,” Branstad says.
Owners of Iowa convenience stores and truck stops are pleading with legislators to phase in an increase in the state gas tax rather than have it take effect all at once this spring.
“We’re the first employer of folks coming out of high school and other jobs,” says Dawn Carlson of the Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores of Iowa. “It’s dramatically going to impact jobs in our industry.”
Carlson says since consumers use a credit card for about 70 percent of gasoline sales, if the pump price increases 10-cents per gallon, transaction fees will increase.
“We’ve calculated that it’s going to cost our industry an additional $5 million and for those folks who think that we just pass all that down to the consumer, I’ve got another thing to say about that,” Carlson said during a hearing at the statehouse last week. “Those costs, a lot of those are having to be absorbed and they have to come out somewhere.”
Americans for Prosperity opposes extra fees at the pump and has launched a “Stop the Gas Tax” online petition drive. The group is pushing a constitutional amendment that would dedicate three-and-a-half percent of the other taxes already collected by the state for road and bridge projects. However, the governor suggests the dime-a-gallon state fuel tax increase has a good chance of becoming law.
“It’s a compromise and it’s not what everybody would like and I’m sure, that there are many groups that would like to see if differently,” Branstad says, “but there is a clear need for additional money for infrastructure, for our roads and bridges in the counties and cities as well as the state, and I think the timing is right to get it done this year.”
Branstad made his comments during a weekend appearance on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program.