The Iowa Legislative Session kicks off on Monday, and one of the big topics this year will likely be the issue of fixing the state’s deteriorating roads and bridges. State Senator Tod Bowman of Maquoketa chairs the Transportation Committee in the Iowa Senate. Bowman says it’s a problem that’s getting worse because Iowa’s Road Use Fund isn’t bringing in enough money to pay for the mounting work that needs to be done. Just to cover the state’s most critical projects, he says they’ll need an extra 215-million dollars a year.
Currently, Iowa’s roads and bridges are paid for with a per-gallon tax on fuel and vehicle registration fees. Raising the per-gallon tax on fuel by a penny would generate an additional 20-million dollars a year, but construction costs continue to keep going up dramatically and new cars travel farther on less fuel. Bowman says in rural areas, some counties have resorted to borrowing money – and paying interest – to maintain roads and bridges. The Iowa D-O-T recently floated several ideas for raising more road funds over the long term. Their ideas include getting rid of Iowa’s per-gallon tax on fuel and replacing it with a sales tax on fuel. The department also proposes increasing registration fees on vehicle purchases from five to six percent. He says something needs to be done to fix the problem, and he’d like the public’s input.
Right now, Iowa has the largest budget surplus is state history. Bowman says it could help knock out some major road projects, but it doesn’t address the root of the funding problem. He’s hoping Governor Terry Branstad will take a strong stand on the issue during the upcoming legislative session.
How do you think the issue of fixing the state’s deteriorating roads and bridges can be solved? Senator Bowman encourages you to contact him by phone or by email, or contact your area legislators or Governor Branstad.