Within the span of two-and-a-half hours, votes were taken in both the Iowa House and Senate yesterday to pass a bill that would raise the tax by a dime a gallon. (See how your Senator voted here; see how your Representative voted here.)
Senator Tod Bowman, a Democrat from Maquoketa who was a main backer of the bill, said a lack of transportation funding is “huge problem” for Iowa.
“Iowa roads and bridges are in pretty rough shape,” Bowman said. “…The neglect puts Iowa families in danger every time they drive and it makes businesses hesitant to locate or expand in our state.”
Representative Steven Holt, a Republican from Denison, voted no and accused supporters of adopting “a Washington, D.C. philosophy.”
“If you truly believe, as I do, that the state has a spending problem, I do not know how we can then look out taxpayers in the face and say. ‘But we’ve got to rasie your gas tax by 45.5 percent,'” Holt said.
Senator Amy Sinclair, a Republican from Allerton, said her constituents in southern Iowa travel long distances and oppose paying more for gas.
“People in my district have to plan when to buy milk, so they don’t have to make a special trip back to HyVee to get it,” Sinclair said.
Senator David Johnson, a Republican from Ocheyedan, said he voted for the bill, in large part, because he represents Rock Rapids where roads were devastated by flood waters in 2014.
“So I’m not going to go back to Lyon County and say I couldn’t do anything,” Johnson said. “I can’t.”
Representative Chuck Soderberg, a Republican from Le Mars, said the magnitude of the increase was the reason he voted no.
“To go from the 15th cheapest state fuel wise to the 13th most expensive with one bill should be a wake-up call for everybody,” Soderberg said.
Representative Josh Byrnes, a Republican from Osage who has been a key advocate for raising the gas tax, was the last legislator to speak during yesterday’s debate.
“We represent 30,000 people at these chairs. I understand that,” Byrnes said. “I also represent 30,000 at this desk and, in my district, this is something that my constituents want.”
Byrnes said it’s time to raise the state fuel tax to get more money for Iowa’s “aging” transportation system. Governor Terry Branstad has three days to make a decision on the bill. If, as expected, he signs it into law, the increase would go into effect March 1.
There are 150 legislators serving in the Iowa House and Senate. Forty-two Republicans and 39 Democrats voted for the gas tax increase. In the Senate, it was a coalition of 16 Democrats and 12 Republicans who passed the bill. In the House, there were 42 Republicans and 39 Democrats who voted for it.