Iowa Governor Terry Branstad (R) announced November 6 his intention to pursue an increase in state transportation funding during the next legislative session.
The newly reelected governor joined a growing movement calling for a fix for Iowa’s crumbling roads. While Brandstad voiced his interest in an increase in the state’s motor fuel tax, he also noted that he is open to other options. With the Legislature convening in January, the six-term governor expressed his hope that Democrats and Republicans can work together on a bipartisan solution to Iowa’s pressing transportation concerns.
“The discussion will start now. The timing is good because gas prices have dropped significantly. That makes it a little more palatable to the public,” Brandstad told the Des Moines Register. “I also think trying to take a new approach, not just the old gas tax, but really looking at the whole funding formula for the road use tax fund and see if we can come up with a more modern system that will meet our needs for the long term.”
Both House Transportation Committee Vice Chairman Brian Moore (R-Bellevue) and Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Tod Bowman (D-Maquoketa) were pleased with the governor’s statement. Both agreed the state fuel tax would be the primary focus when the Legislature convenes.
“If the governor jumps on board I think he’ll gather more of the conservative votes, and, my God, we’re getting down to where we’ve got to do something with these roads,” Moore told the Des Moines Register.
“Last year wasn’t the right timing for some people, but I think they’re going to give it some serious consideration,” Bowman added.
Iowa last raised the state’s motor fuel tax to 21 cents-per-gallon in 1989. DOT officials have stated the amount of revenue generated from this tax is leaving a $215 million annual shortfall in meeting the state, county and local roads and bridges need. A study commissioned by Branstad in 2011 recommended increasing the state’s fuel tax rates by eight to ten cents-per-gallon and raising registration fees on the sale of motor vehicles by one percent.