Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) supports the bipartisan legislative effort announced this week to fund the state's much-needed road and bridge repairs.
Iowa's largest farm organization announced support of a possible fuel tax increase back in October, when a Citizen Advisory Commission report concluded that raising fuel tax by 8 to 10 cents per gallon would be the most equitable, fairest way to fund Iowa's critical infrastructure needs.
Iowa's gasoline taxes would rise 8 cents per gallon and registration fees for new vehicles would increase by 20% under a legislative proposal unveiled January 4, 2012 by a bipartisan group of legislators and advocacy organizations. Governor Terry Branstad has said he will not support an increase in the gas tax this year, but the group is pushing ahead with the proposal anyway, saying it would be irresponsible to delay massive road improvements and jeopardize public safety.
The issue will generate debate in the 2012 legislative session that begins Monday January 9 at the State Capitol in Des Moines. Groups saying they back the proposed 8 cent increase in the Iowa gas tax include the Iowa League of Cities, Iowa Farm Bureau and several Iowa labor unions.
Fuel tax increase will generate funds to repair rural roads, bridges
"I'm tired of just Iowans bearing this burden," says Senator Tom Rielly, D-Oskaloosa, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. Rielly says 35% of the large truck traffic and 15% of passenger cars are from outside the state. "We'd like to take this proposal and work with the governor in a bipartisan way to put people back to work, improve the safety of our roads and get people from outside of Iowa who use our roadways to pay their fair share."
The proposal would raise the gas tax by 4 cents in 2013 and another 4 cents in 2014, raising an estimated $180 million annually when fully implemented. Registration fees for new vehicles would increase from 5% to 6% this year.
Representative David Tjepkes, R-Gowrie and chairman of the House Transportation Committee told supporters of the proposal who gathered at the State Capitol on Wednesday that he hasn't specifically heard the governor threaten a veto should lawmaker pass a gasoline tax increase.
Iowa Farm Bureau supports bipartisan effort to fund road repairs
"Senator Rielly and Representative Tjepkes both served on that task force and met with Iowans who told them that it's time to do something about Iowa's aging roads and bridges. They are working together to address the long term challenges of providing adequate funding to repair our roads and bridges," says Iowa Farm Bureau president Craig Hill. "With rural roads making up nearly 90,000 miles of our state's 114,000-mile road system, our members know how critical those roads are for maintaining access to services across the state. We believe a sound infrastructure is crucial for our state's current and future economic prosperity."
Hill adds, "The Iowa Department of Transportation says we need $215 million a year to meet the critical needs of our transportation system. Those needs will increase as our infrastructure ages and construction costs continue to climb. Iowa hasn't raised the state's fuel tax since 1989 and our roads have deteriorated significantly since then. An 8- to 10-cent per gallon rise in the fuel tax would generate $184 million to $230 million per year; it's the fairest way to assure all who drive on our roads help pay for the repairs."
IFBF members have long supported a fuel tax to pay for road repairs, says Hill. In 2008 Farm Bureau delegates passed a policy calling for the fuel tax increase to repair the state's roads and bridges.A report released in October by a group called Transportation for America said almost 22% of Iowa's 24,722 bridges are "deficient." The only states with a higher percentage of deficient bridges are Pennsylvania and Oklahoma.