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Proposed Gas Tax Hike A Win-Win For Local Area

By Staff | Feb 23, 2012

A potential increase in the gas tax was a topic during the Tuesday, Feb. 21, meeting of the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors. Palo Alto County Engineer Joel Fantz kicked-off the discussion, providing a brief summary of the gas tax.

“Governor Branstad put out his commission over the state, and the commission studied it and looked at it and there was overwhelming support for the gas tax,” Fantz said. “The Governor says ‘not this year’, but he didn’t say ‘veto’. There’s really good support from both the Senate and the House of Representatives, but it has to be bipartisan. Everybody who has looked at it knows it needs to be done.”

Fantz noted that the last time that the gas tax was raised was 1989.

“Back then, we could pave two miles for the price of a half million. Now, we can pave one mile. The buying power has shrunk that much,” he said.

The county engineer shared several statistics in which Iowa ranks low nationally in regards to infrastructure.

“For rural interstate condition, Iowa is in the bottom 25-percent and in the bottom 15-percent for urban interstate condition,” said Fantz. “For the rural arterial roads, we are in the bottom 10-percent.”

“Is this in the United State or just the state of Iowa?” asked Supervisor Ed Noonan.

“In the United States,” Fantz answered. “When you look over the whole state of Iowa and you compare that against other states with similar routes-the rural arterial-basically our county roads. Some of those might be the lower level DOT roads, but primarily you’re looking at your county pavements.”

Fantz continued, “We’re the third worst in the nation in the total number of structurally deficient bridges. That’s a little deceptive because we have a lot of smaller bridges.”

“Does that count all the ones that are in the county?” asked Supervisor Ron Graettinger.

“That’s county and state,” Fantz answered. “Bottom line is we’re the third worst.”

Noonan noted that Iowa has one of the highest state income taxes.

“This reflects everything else. They’re trying to solve the issue of commercial property tax,” said Fantz. “The gas tax is about as fair a tax as you can have. It’s paid for by the users of the roads and goes directly to the roads. It’s protected by the Iowa Constitution, so it’s very difficult to divert those funds some place else.”

Fantz noted that during the 20 years since the gas tax has been raised, large truck traffic has increased 42-percent.

“We know that’s what does the damage to the roads,” said Fantz.

“You can’t argue with that one,” Keith Wirtz, Supervisor, agreed.

“The travel on the roads-across the system-has increased 36-percent,” Fantz shared.

“Isn’t this gas tax supposed to make around $250 million? That doesn’t sound like much,” Supervisor Leo Goeders interjected.

“In our county alone, not including the towns, it would be half a million dollars, roughly,” said Fantz. “That’s significant. That’s paving one mile a year.”

Fantz added that the State is looking at raising the vehicle registration fee to match the sales tax (when you purchase a new vehicle), raising it from 5-percent to 6-percent.

“But the total of an equivalent of 10-cents is where it stands,” Fantz noted.

Fantz urged the Supervisors to contact state transportation committee members to voice their support for an increase in the state gas tax.

“I’m sure they’re going to cut the corporate tax because it has bipartisan support,” said Graettinger.

“They have to,” Fantz agreed. “It’s so anti-business right now.”

In other business conducted during the meeting, Tuesday, Mar. 13, at 9 a.m. was set as the date and time for the budget hearing. The Supervisors also appointed Bill Whitney and Marvin Duhn as commissioners of Drainage District 29.