Iowa ag groups join push for gas tax increase

Published online: Feb 28, 2013

"It's Time for a Dime."

That's the rallying cry being used by Iowa farm and commodity groups, road builders, county officials and others to push for a 10-cent per gallon increase in the state's gas tax. Those funds would be used to pay for an estimated $215 million annual backlog of infrastructure repairs in Iowa.

Carol Balvanz is the director of policy for the Iowa Soybean Association.

"You have to understand that it's very unlikely that farmers would say `yes, tax me some more-give me another tax to deal with'," Balvanz says. "But farmers realize that their infrastructure is reaching a critical stage where their roads and bridges do need the support of more fuel tax money."

And Balvanz says the situation is indeed becoming critical for many farmers.  "I heard a pretty good testimony a couple of weeks ago where one farmer said, `you know, I am in southeast Iowa-I farm 1,800 acres-and I've got three bridges I can get my semis over in order to get my soy and corn crops to town.  Two of those bridges are now embargoed-I've got one left.'  If that one goes, he said `I'm not sure how I'll get my crops to town'."

Gov. Terry Branstad's support of the gas tax increase is said to be conditional on an agreement with the Legislature on commercial property tax reform.  Balvanz is optimistic the fuel tax increase will pass this session.

"There are a lot of people that have recognized the needs," she says, "and I think it has a good chance if the property taxes get fixed the way they need to get fixed."

The legislation hasn't been filed yet, but one of the proposals calls for incremental increases of 3 cents each in years 1 and 2, followed by a 4-cent increase in year 3.