Republicans in the Iowa House say the Iowa DOT got a significant budget boost when the state gas tax went up a dime-a-gallon last year — and the agency should reallocate money within its budget to pay for negotiated employee pay raises.
Representative Daniel Huseman, a Republican from Aurelia, says this is a “tough budget year” and other state agencies will have to do that.
“We just felt it was not appropriate to raise the gas tax, have it signed last February or March and then six months later come to the governor and ask for $10 million for a pay raise,” Huseman says. “That has a lot of our members concerned and that’s why we didn’t put it in our appropriations bill.”
Iowa DOT officials say without the extra money, up to 400 employees will be laid off over the next four years, plus some of the state’s Driver’s License stations and DOT maintenance garages will have to be closed. Lee Wilkinson, director of the DOT’s operations and finance division, isn’t saying which locations might be targeted.
“We don’t know what will happen with certainty and even at that point, once it does, we will at that point then evaluate where we need to go,” Wilkinson says.
Wilkinson says the DOT cannot use any of the additional gas tax revenue to cover salaries, because of legislative action in 2015 that barred the practice.
“The increase that we received from the gas tax, none of that money goes towards out budget,” Wilkinson says. “All of that money is going into roads projects.”
The House Appropriations Committee met last night and voted to remove the money for DOT salary hikes that Senators had included in a transportation budget bill.