The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

April 7, 2014

Support a fuel tax increase

Are you tired of paying for wear and tear on your vehicle or mapping new routes due to the tragic condition of our roads? Another hard winter has taken its toll on our streets and roadways and, unless we take action, maintenance and repairs threaten to bankrupt many cities and counties in Iowa.

According to a report from a national transportation research group, 42 percent of Iowa’s major locally and state-maintained roads and highways are either in poor or mediocre condition. Additionally, Iowa is tied for the second highest share of structurally deficient bridges in the nation.

Local entities rely heavily on Road Use Tax Funds (RUTF) generated by the state mostly through fuel tax. There has been no increase in the state fuel tax since 1989. In that 25 years, construction costs have gone up 2.5 times.

The Iowa DOT has indicated there is a $215 million annual funding shortfall in order to meet the state’s most critical public roadway needs. And with recent state mandates such as the commercial property tax rollback and the 411 pension contributions, the burden on local entities is more than they can handle.

Some counties have resorted to borrowing money for road maintenance, but this is a nonrecurring source of revenue. Continually borrowing to fund an open-ended issue will lead to financial ruin in a very short time.

With all that said, I am urging Iowa citizens to contact their government representatives at the state level, voicing encouragement for a fuel tax increase. After all, I believe everyone would be willing to pay a few more cents at the pump if it means that they and their loved ones will be safe on our roads.

We can be proactive and improve our infrastructure, or we can wait for a catastrophe such as the Minneapolis bridge collapse of 2007, and react to it. We should not let the loss of life be the mitigating factor.

Trevor Willis is a Camanche City Councilman.

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