DES MOINES, Iowa - Governor Terry Branstad told reporters in a news conference Thursday that 2015 may be "the right time" to pursue an increase in the state fuel tax, though he did not clarify a specific increase he'd support.
This comes after state lawmakers failed to see a proposed increase from the House Transportation Committee in the tax by 10 cents over a three-year period pass in the last legislative session. At the time, Republican lawmakers said Iowa couldn't afford another tax increase, but now that the governor has thrown his support behind the proposal, bipartisan agreement on some sort of increase could be feasible.
Supporters of a fuel tax increase say it's necessary for Iowa to adequately take care of and repair its roads and bridges; the Federal Highway Administration ranks Iowa 38th in the nation in terms of road conditions, and roughly 20% of the state's bridges are classified as "deficient."
"Yes, will it have an effect on some peoples' budgets? Yes, absolutely it's going to have an effect. But it's also a fairer tax, because you're talking about the people who are actually using the roads, are paying the tax," said Rachel Bly, a resident of Grinnell. "We have Interstate 80 and Interstate 35 coming through our state, which have incredible usage, and that's part of what makes the roads worse."
Kristina Dufourroeder of Ankeny says she wouldn't mind a small increase, because gas is a necessity she can't go without.
"Regardless, I have to get gas anyways. I do travel a lot, out of town," she said. "I go back and forth to my hometown, which is Rockford, almost every other weekend. So, I'm getting gas all the time, and my gas bill is really high. But regardless, I just really just don't look at the price of it because it's something I have to get."
Governor Branstad told reporters Thursday he'd support a bipartisan measure on this issue, so neither party could claim the other was solely responsible for a tax increase on Iowa families down the road.