Drivers and lawmakers debate the need for a gas tax hike - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Drivers and lawmakers debate the need for a gas tax hike

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

In just a few days, state lawmakers will head to Des Moines for the start of the 2012 Iowa Legislative session. They're expected to take up many issues -- including job creation, unemployment benefits, and property tax reform.

But one topic is garnering a lot of attention this week -- a proposed gas tax hike.

We caught up with driver Lindsy Courbat as she filled her truck up Thursday afternoon. She said she's paid as much as $80 to fill her tank, lately it's been a little less than that.

"I usually do half a tank because eighty is pretty big!" Courbat said.

Depending on what happens in the next legislative session, Courbat might have to increase her weekly budget. This week, lawmakers laid out a proposal to raise the state fuel tax for the first time in more than 20 years.

Republican Senator Bill Dix said the plan has already created a buzz in his community.

"I've had close to a dozen calls already from constituents," he told KWWL.

Cedar Falls Senator Jeff Danielson is one of the lawmakers supporting a plan to raise the fuel tax, in phases, by as much as ten cents a gallon. He points out -- it's one of the rare taxes which can only be used for one thing: road improvements.

Gas station owner Jim Lind said he's on board with the idea -- as long as it's well-thought out.

"If we've defined the problem, and that we actually need the money, I think the use tax, through gas taxes, is a good way to go," Lind explained.

If the proposal does become law, a person filling up a twelve gallon tank would pay about a dollar more. Lind said the customer would likely notice the difference, but would likely continue their regular driving habits.

"At the end of the day, we're all going to feel it, but we're all going to keep driving," he noted.

Courbat agreed, saying the price of gas jumps around so often she likely wouldn't pay attention to a few more cents.

"It goes up, it goes down, it's like -- why do you complain really?" Courbat said.

Whether you call yourself Republican or Democrat, most drivers agree Iowa's highways need work.

"I have several roads in my district that could stand to be repaired ahead of the schedule that they're on," said Dix.

"There's a lot of roads that need to be redone, so yeah, that's a good cause for it," said Courbat.

Lind and Danielson believe the extra pennies at the pump will pay for themselves down the road.

"Hopefully the smoother roads, more accessible roads, better traffic planning, will save them money and be easier on the cars in the long run," Lind added.

The Iowa Department of Transportation reports an increase of one cent per gallon would generate more than $20 million annually for road maintenance.

Danielson said some of the projects which would benefit from the proposal are the renovation of University Avenue between Waterloo and Cedar Falls and safety improvements at the dangerous intersection of Highway 218 and Cedar Wapsi Road. He said both projects are at least ten years out from completion.

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