Road funding solutions sought in Iowa

| 2/13/2008

Iowa lawmakers are working on possible solutions to a widening budget deficit for road and bridge work throughout the state.

Democrats and Republicans in the statehouse have offered different methods to help chip away at the $200 million annual shortfall in money for highway construction and maintenance. The plans are expected to draw consideration at the capitol in the coming weeks.

A plan offered by Democrats, the majority party at the Iowa statehouse, would increase annual registration fees on nearly every vehicle. In hopes of appeasing likely voters in the fall, the boost in fees would not apply to existing vehicles.

Concerns about negative feedback from constituents on Election Day also led lawmakers to turn a deaf ear to increasing the state’s fuel tax. Gov. Chet Culver supported the decision.

The higher costs applied to purchases of new cars, trucks, trailers and recreational vehicles eventually would raise $185 million each year for roads, The Quad-City Times reported.

House Transportation Chairwoman Geri Huser, D-Altoona, said something must be done now to address concerns about transportation infrastructure in the state.

Senate Republicans share that sentiment. However, they would prefer to take a different route in finding the solution.

GOP lawmakers offered a plan that would increase funding for roads without raising taxes or fees. Their plan would route $90 million from gambling revenues into the road use tax fund. It also would require any money remaining from the general fund after reserve accounts are filled to be used for roads.

Another aspect of the Republicans’ plan is to divert 1 percent of all state tax collections into the road fund. Although the adjustment would mean cuts to other state programs, Senate Minority Leader Ron Wieck, R-Sioux City, said “It’s the more responsible thing to do.”

To view other legislative activities of interest for Iowa, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor