This past week in the Iowa House, representatives were busy vetting the various pieces of legislation in their respective subcommittee hearings. During this process, the bill that grabbed the most attention during the week was House Study Bill 514, a bill which would increase the state’s gasoline tax over the next three years.
Interestingly enough is the fact that this gas tax hike is being led by some House Republicans. What’s even more ironic is the location of this particular subcommittee hearing.
Of all the meeting places in the Capitol, the 5-0 vote, which advances this bill to the full Transportation Committee, occurred in Room 19, the Ronald Reagan Room. I’m sure our 40th President, a man known for his stand on lower taxes and less government, would not have been pleased with a movement led by Republicans to raise taxes in a room that was meant to honor his legacy.
No one, myself included, argues the desperate need to maintain and fix our highway infrastructure, farm-to-market roads, and bridges on secondary roads. As someone who works in the agricultural sector, I know firsthand the frustration of having to make detours frequently on secondary roads because the bridges I need to cross are not safe to support the weight of my equipment.
I also understand what it means to get stuck in the spring mud on a “gravel” road with a loaded 30-foot gooseneck trailer on behind and no way to turn around. However, raising the gas tax is not the best solution to fixing these two scenarios.
There are several reasons why I do not believe the gas tax hike is the best option. One of the major obstacles is the TIME-21 formula that the increased revenue would have to filter through.
With the gas tax increase, the heaviest burden would be borne by people in the smaller, more rural counties (what I call the “commuter counties”). While at the same time, the five most populous counties in the state (these are typically the same counties that the people in the “commuter counties” are commuting to) would receive an unfair amount of benefit from the proceeds of this hike.
There is also the issue of the funding not reaching our critical infrastructure needs in a timely fashion. If this gas tax hike were to pass, the full “benefit” of it would not be realized until at least four years from now.
Several alternate proposals have been offered in lieu of raising the gas tax. One such proposal in the Senate would take 2 percent from the General Fund and distribute it using the pre-TIME-21 formula, so that more money is funneled to our counties’ most critical needs.
I plan to introduce the companion to this bill in the Iowa House.
Another alternative would take a half-penny of sales tax and dedicate it to the highway infrastructure. Yet another proposal would legalize the sale of fireworks in the state and dedicate the new source of tax revenue to our roads and bridges.
The point is that these proposals would generate new funding streams for infrastructure without raising taxes and placing an even heavier burden on hardworking Iowans. Unfortunately, these alternate proposals have not been given much consideration.
The Legislature is charged with the task of making tough budgeting decisions, just like any other Iowa family or business does in order to make ends meet. This is a time for addressing the steady, consistent, gradual growth of the state’s budget and government; and for doing what we can to alleviate the cost of the heavy burden which our bloated state bureaucracy places on the backs of Iowa taxpayers.
Raising the gas tax, little as it may seem, is like turning up the heat on the proverbial frog in the pan of water.
If you place a frog in a pan of boiling water, he will immediately jump out. But if you put that same frog in a pan of lukewarm water and steadily increase the temperature, he will adjust to the gradual change and become accustomed to it. By the time the frog realizes that he has been boiled alive, it’s too late.
This coming week on Friday, Feb. 7, I will be hosting town hall forums in Knoxville at Tasos’ Restaurant at 4 p.m. and at the Sully Community Center at 7 p.m.
Please feel free to contact me with your issues or concerns as they arise. You may do so either by phone at (515) 281-3221, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or when visiting the Capitol. I appreciate and welcome your comments and feedback.
Also, if you would like to subscribe to my weekly e-newsletter, please send a quick note via email and I’ll put you on the list.
It is truly an honor to be your representative in the Iowa Legislature, one I do not take for granted. Until next time, God bless.