Last week two identical bills were introduced in the House and Senate that would increase Iowa’s gas tax by 10 cents per gallon. House Study Bill 129 and Senate Study Bill 1168, if enacted, would require the 45.5% tax increase to take effect on the first day of the month after the bill is signed into law.
Each bill passed through its respective chamber’s Transportation Subcommittee last week. It is expected that both bills could move to the full House or Senate Transportation Committee for approval this week. Gas-tax-promoting Legislators and special interests are anxious to move either bill to the House and Senate floor by the end of this month to crush discussion and debate over this important issue.
Iowans for Tax Relief believes there are many flaws in these bills beyond the ten cents tax increase. The bill that was promised to be simple and straightforward is a complicated mess of jargon. Many taxpayers and perhaps even a few Legislators would find it difficult to understand.
This bill presents the perfect opportunity to stop counties from bonding for road projects, one of the main arguments gas tax increase supporters make for the necessity of a gas tax increase. However, the bill is toothless on bonding. It would not give taxpayers any real protection against bonding. Counties could continue piling up bonded debt if the new bonds are repaid within the useful life of the road project. The bill certainly does not create any accountability or transparency from local officials to ensure gas tax dollars are used efficiently. Despite the weak language on bonding, some special interest groups have not yet supported the bill because their lawyers have advised them that even this minimal limitation is too restrictive!
Iowans for Tax Relief warns that this tax increase will encourage even more bonding because it gives counties just enough dollars to start road projects, but not nearly enough to finish them.
Another big problem with the bill: it is not a comprehensive long-term solution! The bill does nothing to change the Road Use Tax Fund formula or the total complicated mess of Iowa roads funding with many separate pots of money. If this bill is passed, rural roads would continue to receive a minority of the funding while they still have a majority of the issues. The bill also does not address how to move forward with transportation funding as vehicles continue to become more and more fuel-efficient.
This bill is simply a short-sighted band-aid, which would be one more burden on Iowa taxpayers and a heavy burden on low-income Iowans, while big special interests profit. Iowans for Tax Relief has provided 6 essential steps we believe Legislators should consider before a gas tax increase. These steps lead to forward-thinking, long-term solutions.
It is time to slow these bills down and demand that Legislators have a real, honest, in-depth discussion about Iowa’s transportation needs. Please contact your State Legislators and Governor Branstad today and tell them you want a long-term solution for Iowa’s roads and bridges, not a gas tax increase!
Iowans for Tax Relief urges you to contact Governor Branstad and your Legislators and tell them to oppose any gas tax increase.
Senate Switchboard – 515-281-3371
House Switchboard – 515-281-3221
Lookup your Legislator’s Email Address – Here