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Editorial: Get behind the gas-tax hike

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | FEBRUARY 13, 2015 5:00 AM

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On Tuesday, The Daily Iowan reported that “Iowa lawmakers have set their sights on raising the state’s gas tax, as state’s infrastructure continues to erode and a deadline nears.” As of Thursday, a House subcommittee consisting of five representatives voted unanimously in support of the bill, which would result in a 10-cent increase in gas tax for Iowa. A small price to pay, both literally and figuratively, for the benefit it would bring to the state.

Currently, each penny of state gas tax provides around $20 million per year. Should the legislation go through, the tax would raise an estimated $215 million annually to be allocated to road and bridge improvements.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board supports the implementation of such a tax, given the bipartisan support for such legislation and the low current level of state’s gas tax.

When compared with the rest of the United States, Iowa’s gas tax is miniscule. The national average, according to NPR, is 29.89 cents per gallon. Iowa’s gas tax is 22 cents per gallon, which, as of Jan. 1, was higher than only 13 states.

Although the discrepancy between the national average for state-level gas taxes is only 7.89 cents higher than Iowa’s current level, the proposed increase is 10 cents. This increase of 2.11 cents over the national average, however, would be the first of its kind in Iowa since 1989, the DI has previously reported.

A chief concern surrounding the implementation of the gas tax is the volatility of gas prices. While prices are lower now than they have been in years, this may change in the future. And a 10-cent increase in gas prices may not seem terribly large when prices are hovering around $2, but if prices back up near $4, even small increases in gas prices could be tough for Iowans to get on board with.

Important to remember, to this point, however, is that the change in gas price would not change the gas tax itself. According to the latest statistics by the Federal Highway Administration, as of September 2014, the average American driver traveled 13,476 miles annually. This, along with the consideration that, according to the EPA, average fuel consumption of a 2013 model year car was 24.1 miles per gallon would equate to approximately $55.92 increase in taxes annually — on average.

Obviously, the assumption that all cars driving in Iowa are from the 2013 model year is foolish, but the point is valid. Furthermore, miles driven are based on the use of automobiles. If the tax is significant enough in the minds of Iowans, perhaps it can have the unintended benefit of promoting carpooling and the use of public-transit systems.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board supports the implementation of a gas tax because of a combination of bipartisan support, minimal effect on the budgets of Iowans, the positive effect that such legislation could have on our roads and bridges, and that the state-level gas tax is comparatively low.


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