Iowa fuel tax hike gets endorsement; truckers lauded

| Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Truckers and other drivers fueling in Iowa could soon be responsible for paying an extra dime per gallon. From all indications the public supports paying more at the pump to benefit trucking.

The governor’s Citizen Advisory Commission voted unanimously to endorse a proposal to increase the state’s fuel tax rate by 8 to 10 cents per gallon.

The 16-member panel is responsible for coming up with transportation funding options to help the state cope with an annual budget shortfall estimated at about $220 million. The group’s vote follows two months of gathering input from the public about possible funding methods to pay for needed improvements and repairs to roads and bridges.

Before state lawmakers can debate the issue next year, the panel’s recommendations must be routed through the Iowa Department of Transportation for any changes. Other recommendations from the panel include raising the registration fees for vehicles by 1 percent and attaching a new user fee for hybrid vehicles.

It is estimated that each penny added to the state’s 21-cent-per-gallon gas tax and 22-cent-per-gallon diesel tax would generate about $22 million in revenue. The 1 percent vehicle fee would bring in an estimated $50 million.

Blame for the funding 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.

According to the panel’s report, in seven public meetings held across the state in August and September 90 percent of the verbal or written comments support increasing additional funding for Iowa’s roads and bridges. Nearly two-thirds supported increasing the state fuel tax rates. Of those in favor of an increase, about 33 percent were in favor of a 10-cent hike.

The report also noted that the public recognizes that something needs to be done to benefit the trucking industry.

“The trucking industry, often carrying heavy loads, needs good roads to travel faster and safer. They also look for fast and good service, because that will save them fuel, require fewer repairs, and have fewer delays,” the report states.

Critics of any plan to require citizens to pay more than they already are say the issue can be addressed by better use of existing revenue.

The Iowa Constitution mandates that 95 percent of money routed to the state’s road fund be applied to public roads and bridges.

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