Still not convinced a tax increase is the solution to fix roads

Editor’s note: It’s always good to know how Greene County is being represented in the Statehouse.
The Jefferson Herald runs periodic updates from our legislators in Des Moines.
Today we hear from state Sen. Jerry Behn, R-Boone.

After several years of discussions, and much speculation this session, a bill to increase the fuel tax in Iowa was introduced in the Iowa Senate.

Here are the bullet points of Senate Study Bill 1168:

• The proposed bill raises the state gas tax by 10 cents.

• The bill increases revenues to the Road Use Tax Fund and other related actions including:

• Prohibiting county bonding with the projected revenues if the debt would exceed the useful life of the project.

• Increasing annual permit fees for varying load sizes as follows:
From $25 to $50 in 2016, and $100 in following years; from $300 to $400 in 2016, followed by $500 annually.

• Increasing single-trip permit fees from $10 to $35 for 2016, and $75 after that.

• Increasing the annual all-systems permit from $120 to $160 for 2016, and $200 in following years

• Extends the two-cent gas tax differential on ethanol blended fuel through FY 2025.

• Establishes a three-cent gas tax differential on B-11 biodiesel blended fuel through FY 2025 under the same provisions as the ethanol differential.

• The ethanol and biodiesel formulas are subject to legislative review at least every six years.

• Provides intent language that the General Assembly wants the increased funding to be used on critical road and bridge repairs.

• Notwithstands the inventory tax in current law.

• If enacted, the fuel tax increase would take effect the first day of the month following enactment.

My understanding is that a matching bill is being introduced in the Iowa House of Representatives.

The goal of all this is to maintain Iowa’s aging infrastructure.

Even though I am in total agreement with that goal, I am still not convinced a tax increase is our only solution.

I have written Sen. Grassley, Sen. Ernst, Congressman King, Congressman Young, Congressman Blum and Congressman Loebsack. I have asked them to either block grant federal highway money to Iowa or at least allow Iowa to apply for waivers to use federal highway dollars the way Iowa needs them, not by some arbitrary formula or rules the Feds see fit.

We are talking big dollars.

To put it in perspective, the proposed 10-cent-per-gallon gas tax hike would raise about $200 million. Iowa receives more than $300 million in federal funds.
Case in point is the brand new rest area just north of Ankeny on I-35.

It is the result of a condition to use federal highway funds for the new interchange at the north edge of Ankeny.

I have yet to find anyone who could justify the rest area’s existence, other than the fact that it was a requirement as the result of using federal funds for the interchange.

Virtually every senator I have visited with has similar stories, scattered across the state, of such wasteful spending.

Before we ask hard-working Iowa taxpayers to part with more of their incomes, we should be sure our current funds are being spent with the best efficiency possible.

If you agree, please contact our federal delegation and ask them to either block grant those federal dollars to Iowa or at least allow a waiver.

That way, we can help ourselves.

As always, I want to hear from you. My Senate number is 515-281-3371 and my home number is 515-432-7327.

You can write me at: State Capitol, Des Moines, IA  50319, or at my home address:  1313 Quill Ave., Boone, IA  50036.

Email me at jerry.behn@legis.state.ia.us.
State Sen. Jerry Behn was first elected to the Iowa Senate in 1996, after serving as a Boone County supervisor.
Behn graduated from United Community High School, and has been farming for 36 years.

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