Iowa panel to discuss road funding options; comments sought

| Monday, August 15, 2011

A governor-appointed panel in Iowa is responsible for coming up with transportation funding options to help the state cope with an annual budget shortfall estimated at more than $200 million. Potential revenue enhancers expected to be considered include a per-mile tax, a sales tax, vehicle fees and fuel tax increases.

The state requires that every five years the Iowa Department of Transportation complete a review of the current revenue levels of the state’s road use tax fund. Also addressed is the capability of those revenues to meet the construction and maintenance needs of state, local and county roads.

According to the state DOT, the state needs another $215 million annually to pay for needed improvements and repairs to roads and bridges. Blame for the shortfall was placed on flat revenues during the past decade, combined with increasing construction costs as well as fuel efficiency improvements and more fuel-efficient vehicles on the road.

To address the state’s transportation needs, the Citizen Advisory Commission will spend the next two months gathering input from the public about possible funding methods. The panel will then make recommendations to state lawmakers for consideration next year.

During the 16-member group’s initial meeting in Bettendorf, IA, on Wednesday, Aug. 10, they received input from citizens, which included increasing the state’s fuel tax rates. One option mentioned to help save money would mean leaving some county roads unplowed and unsalted during winter weather.

There are six more opportunities for comment through September. The meetings are scheduled in communities around the state.

Once the panel wraps up the hearing process, there will be two meetings this fall to finalize conclusions and submit them to Gov. Terry Branstad and the Iowa Legislature for consideration during the 2012 regular session.

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