The Johnson County Republican Central Committee on Monday night indicated they did not believe that Iowa needed to raise the gas tax in order to pay for street and bridge repairs. For the past two years the only solution proposed by those who are concerned about a seeming lack of funding for road and bridge repairs was to increase the gas tax. This proposal’s most vocal champion in the Iowa Legislature is State Representative Josh Byrnes (R-Osage) who will chair the House Transportation Committee when the new General Assembly gavels in.
In an interview with the Des Moines Register shortly after winning re-election to a 6th term Governor Branstad said, “The discussion will start now. The timing is good because gas prices have dropped significantly. That makes it a little more palatable to the public.”
Prior to this Branstad was neutral on the subject.
Johnson County Republicans were not convinced that this need could not be met with existing revenue. Unlike many resolutions that just address opposition to a certain proposal, this one provides a solution: set aside the current allocation formula and letting engineers create a statewide prioritization of the road and bridge repair needs in order to see if existing funding will meet the need.
The resolution that passed unanimously reads:
Whereas Governor Branstad has just been re-elected to a historic sixth term, carrying all but one of Iowa’s 99 counties;
And whereas Governor Branstad has indicated addressing the need for repairing defective roads and bridges will be a high priority for him in 2015, and that he is open to discussion of all ideas for generating the needed revenues to do so;
And whereas some believe we are not allocating enough funds to address priority needs in a timely fashion and have therefore called for an increase in the gas tax to provide additional funds;
And whereas bureaucrats, including those in the road building and maintenance portions of our local and state government, have incentives to “spend all the money and ask for more” instead of giving back un-needed funds to the general fund or transferring them to other jurisdictions with higher priority needs for road or bridge repair;
And whereas the allocation of road use funds in Iowa has been governed by a formula adopted in 1949 (most recently changed in 1989) which directs 47.5% to primary roads, 24.5% to secondary roads, 8% to farm-to-market roads, and 20% for city streets;
And whereas in 2008 the Iowa General Assembly created the TIME-21 funding stream dedicated to maintenance and construction of primary highways (60%), secondary roads (20%), and municipal streets (20%) by changing vehicle registration fees and schedules, and by increasing trailer and title fees;
And whereas for state fiscal year 2013 receipts into these two funds were $1,300,000,000 comprised of $444,000,000 in fuel taxes, $780,000,000 in registration fees, and $80,000,000 from miscellaneous other sources;
Therefore be it Resolved that the Johnson County Republican Central Committee calls on the Governor to propose a two-year set-aside of the allocation formula and replacing it with a statewide prioritization (by engineers, instead of politicians, based on utilization, safety, and existing conditions) of all the road and bridge repair needs so that we can see if there are actually enough funds to meet the high priority needs if funds are transferred from lower priority “nice, but not necessary” projects such as colored, formed-with-designs highway medium barriers rather than grey pre-fabricated ones on I- 80 through Iowa City, concrete instead of gravel shoulders on both sides of the ring-road around Muscatine, roads from the city to the homes of newly elected county supervisors being paved, etc., etc.
Will other county parties follow suit? Branstad may face stiff grassroots opposition and pressure on this issue. He doesn’t have to worry about re-election as many believe he won’t run for a 7th term (which is four years away anyway). State legislators who may be inclined to vote for an increase to the gas tax won’t have that luxury.