Kraig Paulsen

Kraig Paulsen

The Republican speaker of the Iowa House has taken extraordinary steps to ensure a bill that would raise Iowa’s gas tax clears a House committee this afternoon.

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen has removed one Republican from the committee who was opposed to the bill and appointed another Republican to the panel who intends to vote yes.

Paulsen also asked a freshman lawmaker on the panel to step aside for this one meeting, so Paulsen himself can sit in and vote for the bill. Paulsen told reporters that if he hadn’t made the moves, the bill would have failed to pass the House Ways and Means Committee today.

“Yes,” Paulsen said shortly after 11 o’clock. “The vote is that close.”

Paulsen said there’s bipartisan support for the bill in the House and Senate.

“It’s pretty apparent to me at this point that while there continues to be members in every caucus who support it, members in every caucus who oppose it, it also appears to me it has moved into a position where it has the support of the majority of each caucus,” Paulsen said. “And that the body, that is the House, is ready to have the bill come to the floor and have the debate.”

The bill is to come up for a vote in the House Ways and Means Committee at two o’clock this afternoon. Others have been advocating for an increase in the state’s tax on motor fuel, to boost the fund for road and bridge projects throughout the state. Paulsen said after that “four year dialogue” and “meaningful efficiencies” in the Iowa DOT’s budget, the state is “at a point” that raising the gas tax is the best option.

Paulsen removed Representative Jack Highfill, a Republican from Johnston, from the House Ways and Means Committee today and appointed Representative Brian Moore, a Republican from Bellevue, to the committee instead.  Paulsen has also asked freshman Representative Zach Nunn, a Republican from Bondurant, to step aside today and Paulsen will sit in on the House Ways and Means Committee meeting in his place.

Paulsen indicated these moves were his preferred method of rounding up enough yes votes, rather than asking Highfill and Nunn to change their votes on the bill from no to yes.

“I’m not interested in asking somebody to do something I’m not willing to do myself,” Paulsen told reporters.

Around noon today the Ways and Means Committee in the Iowa Senate approved the gas tax increase on an 8-6 vote.

(This story was updated at 12:12 p.m.)