The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

December 17, 2013

Local Iowa Legislators back the gas tax

By Samantha Pidde Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — State Reps. Steve Olson, R-DeWitt, and Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton said legislators are waiting for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to show his support before voting on an increase in the gas tax.

During a “meet and greet” between Olson, Wolfe and the Clinton County Board of Supervisors on Monday, the topic of the state’s current gas tax, which has not been increased since 1989, came up. While Supervisor Jill Davisson said the increase sits pretty favorably in both Houses, Olson pointed out there are still some who “sit on the sidelines and bash it.”

“The Governor is going to have to step forward and lean on the thing if we’re going to get it accomplished,” Olson said. “Unless the governor really comes out and says he’s going to sign on it and leans on it, I’m not sure it’s going to move forward.”

Wolfe said she does not know why the legislators do not pass the increase now and then leave it up to Branstad to do the right thing. Instead, she sees everyone waiting on the governor.

“It’s almost like a game of chicken where nobody wants to say yes first. Everyone wants to say yes all at once so there can’t be any finger pointing,” County Engineer Todd Kinney said. “So it starts becoming less about the issue and more about the politics.”

Wolfe added that another problem is some politicians pledge to never raise taxes. She said this type of blanket statement gets in the way of progress. Kinney suggested that maybe it should become a negative campaign against those who do vote against raising the gas tax.

“The gas tax, I think, is still the the right way to do it. It’s a user fee,” Kinney said.

Olson agreed the gas tax is still the simplest way to generate funds for road projects, with the user paying. However, he said a lot of resistance can come from those who do not drive much.

“Technically you don’t have to pay if you don’t want to. You just can’t drive on the road,” Kinney said.

The motor fuel tax is used to help fund road construction. Kinney said that instead of asking legislators if they want to raise the gas tax, which he expects will get a “no”, they should ask if they agree in maintaining the current level of service for roadways.

“It’’s either you fund what we have and the level of services that we have or you’re choosing not to, so we’ll reduce the level of services and the system sucks,” Kinney said. “You’re talking about closing roads, closing bridges.”

He added that until legislators are given that question and choice, the easy out is to say they do not want to raise taxes. Kinney said taxpayers and legislators might not think about the fact that not supporting the tax increase can lead to the reduction of road services.