Kraig Paulsen

Kraig Paulsen

A bit of drama at the statehouse this afternoon as a bill that would raise the state’s gas tax by a dime a gallon cleared a key House committee on a 13-12 vote. To ensure passage, Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen used his authority to permanently replace one of the committee’s Republican members who opposed the bill with another Republican who voted yes.

“I’m not going to ask somebody to go flip their vote,” Paulsen told reporters before the meeting.

And Paulsen temporarily replaced a freshman Republican legislator on the committee who was a “no” on the bill and Paulsen himself voted “yes” in his place.

“I’m not going to ask somebody to do something I’m not willing to do,” Paulsen said.

Paulsen said he made those extraordinary moves because it’s clear a bipartisan consensus has emerged among legislators and the bill can pass both the House and Senate with both Republican and Democratic votes. Drew Klein is the Iowa director of Americans for Prosperity, a group that opposes the gas tax increase and he was at the statehouse to watch today’s vote in the House Ways and Means Committee.

“I don’t think that the taxpayers of Iowa expected to see these types of maneuvers out of House Republican leadership specifically to support and advance a tax increase that’s going to hit low and middle income families the hardest,” Klein said.

The bill will be eligible for debate in the Iowa House on Tuesday. An identical bill cleared the Ways and Means Commtitee in the Iowa Senate around noon today on an 8-6 vote.

Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal told reporters this morning that he has “no particular timeline” for a vote in the state senate on the issue, but he said when it’s clear the bill will pass “it doesn’t make sense to wait.”