Coalition Wants to Raise Gas Tax to Fix Iowa Roads and Bridges
(SIOUX CITY, IA) It's a trade-off -- a hike in the states gas tax in exchange for a smoother, safer ride. That's the way one group is pushing for higher taxes on fuel in Iowa.
The Iowa Good Roads Association says 40% of Iowa Roads need repair and every 1 in 5 bridges in Iowa is structurally deficient.
Those statements may not surprise you especially if you've been living in Sioux City. You may remember potholes were a serious problem last spring.
"The average age of a bridge in Iowa is 69 years old. So you have bridges out there that were designed 70 years ago for traffic and load limits for an entirely different era," said David Scott, President of Iowa Good Roads Association.
Which is why the association is spending $100,000 on billboards to get your attention.
The Association says people tend to recognize a bad road when they go over a pothole for example but it's what you can't see, like underneath bridges that could be the most expensive to fix in the long run.
"According to engineering studies, a dollar delay in maintenance will cost up to $6-14 later as maintenance is delayed," said Scott.
Thing is, most of the attention is being drawn to the possibility of a 10 cent per gallon gas tax increase. The association says it would bring in $230 million a year for construction and maintenance and is the only sustainable way to pay for it all.
Scott says taking that money out of the existing state budget is a mistake.
"You don't want to be in a battle of roads versus education or concrete versus kids or concrete versus mental health or health care," he said.
Increasing the gas tax would send the money into the road use fund which is constitutionally bound to road repairs.
State Representative Chris Hall says there is need for increased infrastructure funding but says there needs to be more discussion on where that money comes from.
"If it's over the road truckers, if it's average consumers that drive an automobile or a truck, we want to make sure that everybody is contributing their fair share to the roads that they're using," said Hall.
There has been some push-back from the Iowa GOP Chair, AJ Spiker, who told fellow party members in an e-mail, "The gas tax hike seems to be the creature that just won't die!"
He urged them to tell their legislators to, "kill this horrible bill once and for all."
There's certainly no consensus among either party.
The gas tax bill passed out of a sub-committee on a unanimous 5-0 vote.
Governor Branstad, a Republican says he is approaching it with an open mind, not promising to sign a gas tax hike but not threatening a veto it either.
If you would like more information on the proposed gas tax increase you can visit the association's website: www.Fundourroads.com