Lawmakers again look at possible gas tax hike - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Lawmakers again look at possible gas tax hike

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Pump prices in Iowa now average a whopping $3.75.  It's a jump of 48 cents in just the past month.  If some lawmakers get their way, prices could go up even more.

The Iowa legislature is once again talking about increasing the gas tax, which hasn't been done in over 20 years.  Iowa's roads are falling apart, and more money is needed to fix them.

"We've certainly got to find revenues or close roads," said Senator Tod Bowman, (D) Maquoketa, and senate transportation committee chair.

Right now, Iowa can't fund over $200 million road and bridge projects every single year.  To find the cash and avoid closing roads, the state has to either find new revenue or borrow money, which, with interest, costs more in the long run.  That's why some legislators prefer an approach that forces everyone who drive's Iowa's roads to pay for them:  a gas tax increase.

"This problem will continue to become bigger.  The discrepancies between available funds and needs will widen, and it's one of those deals we can certainly kick the can down the road, but it becomes more difficult to solve the longer we do that," Bowman said.

But with already high gas prices, forking out more at the pump isn't ideal for Waterloo mom Lynne Calton.

"Oh it's definitely going to effect everyone's budget.  We have seven children.  They all commute to work, and it's just, you know, they keep absorbing more and more and more.  So there will definitely be an impact," said Calton.

For union organizer Mike Kielty, paying a little more for gas is a fair price to pay for better roads.

"I think that our bridges are in pretty bad shape, so we should probably keep ahead of the curve as far as repairing them," said Kielty.

The question now is whether legislators will actually take the leap this year, and raise the gas tax or find some other way to pay for improvements to Iowa's aging infrastructure.

Governor Branstad has he could support a gas tax increase, but only if it's tied to property tax relief.  Wednesday, gas tax hike supporters will lobby lawmakers at the state capital in Des Moines.

Additional Note:

The state does currently have a budget surplus of about $500 million dollars.  However, that is not enough to cover ongoing road repairs.  Sen. Tod Bowman also says that surplus funds are considered  part of the general fund and cannot be directly transferred to the road use tax fund.

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