Like it or not, it's time to raise Iowa's fuel tax, say backers of a proposal being discussed in the Iowa Legislature. Increased revenue is needed to pay for repairs to the state's deteriorating roads and bridges, and a tax on gasoline and diesel fuel is a user fee, say supporters of such a move. They also point out that the state's fuel tax hasn't been raised since 1989.
For months lobbyists for road builders and contractors, along with other organizations advocating a motor fuel tax hike, have been pushing Iowa lawmakers to raise Iowa's gasoline and diesel fuel tax by 10 cents per gallon. On February 27 in the rotunda of the Iowa statehouse in Des Moines, proponents gathered under a banner proclaiming "It's Time for a Dime" in their public push for a fuel tax increase.
Their message: if the gas tax isn't increased, then lawmakers need to find another way to pay for an estimated $215 million annual backlog of critical infrastructure repairs identified by the Iowa Department of Transportation. According to the Iowa DOT's latest analysis of road and bridge conditions, the revenue collected to maintain the system from all sources falls $1.6 billion short of what is needed every year. However, the most critical shortfall is $215 million a year—what is needed and isn't being met to fix the most seriously deteriorated and unsafe roads and bridges.
Supporters list reasons for an increase, but the pushback against a fuel tax hike is strong, too
Supporters of a fuel tax increase include Iowa Farm Bureau, General Contractors Association of Iowa, Iowa Good Roads Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Association of County Supervisors and the Iowa Chamber of Commerce Alliance.
Organizations that are against raising the fuel tax include Iowans for Tax Relief, the Iowa branch of Americans For Prosperity and the Republican Party of Iowa. Republican Party chairman A.J. Spiker recently wrote a letter to Rep. Josh Byrnes, a Republican from Osage who chairs the House Transportation Committee and supports a gas tax increase. In the letter, Spiker asked Byrnes to withdraw his support. Byrnes responded, "I'm doing what is right for my constituents back home. The Farm Bureau represents my constituents. And all these different associations, such as the corn and soybean growers and others, speak for the Iowans I represent."