Speaker of the Iowa House Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) has much to explain to not only Iowa’s Republicans, but his own caucus as well as the House gavels back in after the weekend. In an extraordinary move Paulsen replaced two members of the House Ways and Means Committee, one only for the day, in order to pass HF 351 out of committee on a 13 to 12 vote.
If the bill is passed it would increase Iowa’s fuel excise tax on motor fuel by 10 cents per gallon.
Paulsen replaced State Representative Jake Highfill (R-Johnston), a no vote, with Brian Moore (R-Bellevue) who voted yes. Paulsen removed State Representative Zach Nunn (R-Bondurant) after from the committee for the day and took his place.
“I am opposed to a 10-cent gas-tax. Leadership is aware of my position. I am the only freshman on Ways & Means, but I’ve held my ground against an INCREASE that does not best serve my constituents. I remain strongly opposed to a simple gas-tax that I believe will not solve the long-term challenges facing our rural roads and bridges and I intend to vote accordingly on the floor,” Nunn told Caffeinated Thoughts in an email.
“When I ran to represent the District 30 community in the Iowa House, I did so on a pledge that I would not increase taxes on Iowa families. (Thursday) I had the opportunity to prove that this pledge was not just rhetoric,” Nunn added.
There is bipartisan support for and against the bill.
Voting in favor of the bill were State Representatives Dave Maxwell (R-Gibson), Dave Jacoby (D-Coralville), Josh Byrnes (R-Osage), Greg Forristall (R-Macedonia), Mary Gaskill (D-Ottumwa), Lee Hein (R-Monticello), Charles Isenhart (D-Dubuque), Jerry Kearns (D-Keokuk), Linda Miller (R-Bettendorf), Brian Moore (R-Bellevue), Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha), Sharon Steckman (D-Mason City) and Matt Windschitl (R-Missouri Valley).
Those voting no were State Representatives Tom Sands (R-Wapello), Chip Baltimore (R-Boone), Timi Brown Powers (D-Waterloo), Peter Cownie (R-Des Moines), Abby Finkenauer (D-Dubuque), Pat Grassley (R-New Hartford), Chris Hagenow (R-Windsor Heights), Dan Kelley (D-Newton), Charlie McConkey (D-Council Bluffs), Todd Prichard (D-Charles City), Patti Ruff (D-McGregor) and Guy Vander Linden (R-Oskaloosa).
The Iowa Senate Ways and Means Committee passed the identical Senate bill on a 8 to 6 vote.
Voting in favor of the measure State Senators Joe Bolkcam (D-Iowa City), Micheal Breitbach (R-Strawberry Point), Bill Doltzer (D-Waterloo), Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids), Pam Jochum (D-Dubuque), Matt McCoy (D-Des Moines), Janet Petersen (D-Des Moines), Herman Quirmbach (D-Ames).
Those who voted no to raising the gas tax were State Senators Chaz Allen (D-Newton), Randy Feenstra (R-Hull), Jerry Behn (R-Boone), Jason Schultz (R-Schelwig), Joe Seng (D-Davenport), and Roby Smith (R-Davenport).
Paulsen’s maneuver is unusual as he has never taken action this extreme for other bills that faced gridlock including a late-term abortion ban that was held up in committee by members of his own caucus. He will now have to explain to his caucus and Iowa Republicans if he won’t take similar action in the future on bills of importance to conservatives.
Paulsen’s action also lacked transparency as it came the day of the committee vote which did not include discussion or debate before the vote was taken. Frankly this action is one that I would expect from Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs), not the Republican Speaker of the House – and to take this action for a tax hike no less.
Should this gas tax increase pass, regardless of how Paulsen ends up voting on the floor, he will be responsible. He must be held accountable for his actions last week, Republicans must send a clear message that behavior like this will not be tolerated from its leadership.
This could be an albatross hanging around his neck. This will not only raise taxes on Iowans it doesn’t address the funding problem for roads and bridges long-term. So expect those advocating a gas tax this year to come back hat in hand a few years down the road.