Local officials: Gas tax would benefit travelers through Iowa


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Area officials say the legislative bills requiring an 8- to 10-cent fuel-tax hike is necessary to maintain upkeep and fuel efficiency on the road.

"Bad roads leads to less fuel efficiency and damage," said Johnson County Supervisor Janelle Rettig.

The state Senate bill, which the Transportation Committee voted on Feb. 15, would raise fuel taxes by 10 cents. A Department of Transportation study, which began in 2008, estimated the funds would be necessary to cover around $200 million in statewide road repairs.

Last week, the House transportation subcommittee passed the measure that would increase the tax by 8 cents.

Rettig said the tax wouldn't affect only local drivers.

"We need a way for road users to pay for road repairs," she said. "The best way to do that is increase fuel taxes because people who are traveling through the state are paying for these taxes, not just residents of Iowa."

Rettig broke down Johnson County road funding to a ratio of $1 million for every mile of road needing repairs. With 950 miles of roads in Johnson County, she said, local officials would eventually need $950 million to cover cumulative repair costs.

The Iowa fuel tax was last changed in 1989, when gas averaged $1.02 per gallon and had a 21-cent fuel tax. Though the average cost per gallon today has more than tripled, fuel taxes have decreased.
State motorist officials said they're hoping to see the tax boost pass.

"Iowa has some of the worst bridges in the nation and several roads that are deteriorating quickly," said Brenda Neville, the president of the Iowa Motor Truck Association. "Roads are the lifeline of this state, and the trucking industry is supportive of a phased-in gas/fuel tax. We consider this to be more of a user fee than a gas tax, because everyone who is using our roads help pay for the roads through a gas tax."

Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said the tax is a good economical move.

"That we have decent roads in Iowa to move forward," he said.

He said the 5-cent increase in 2013 and the additional 5 cents in 2014 would save drivers money allowing them to pass through Iowa quickly.

Some locals, however, were less enthusiastic.

"I'm kind of disappointed because gas prices in Illinois — where I am from — are higher than Iowa," UI freshman Allison Verheyen said. "So I typically fill up in Iowa before I go home."

UI senior Kevin Niehoff said he agreed.

"I really do not like to hear that the tax on fuel is going up," he said. "Because it is hard to pay for gas while paying for college."

Yet Sen. Robert Bacon, R-Maxwell, said he didn't believe the bill would pass the Senate because he hadn't yet seen it on the agenda.

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