A swift blow was dealt to taxpayers in Iowa yesterday as Governor Branstad signed a bill in to law to hike gas and diesel taxes by 10 cents a gallon. The increase resulting from Senate File 257 equates to a more than 45% boost in a single year, making Iowa’s 32 cent per gallon gas tax higher than five of its neighboring states.
The bill itself was met with a measure of controversy. The House legislation squeaked out of committee by a 13-12 vote, only after the Speaker took the unprecedented step of replacing two gas-tax opponents on the panel with supporters (one of them being himself) on the day of the vote. The bill also moved uncharacteristically fast; drivers in Iowa can expect the increase to be enacted at the pumps in just 3 days.
Justification for the increase was met with a degree of skepticism, as well as principled opposition from NTU’s highly-effective state ally, Iowans for Tax Relief (ITR). Lawmakers claim the increase would bring in an additional $215 million annually, off the backs of Iowan drivers, for city, county and state roads. During the lead-up to the vote, Iowans for Tax Relief released six essential steps that politicians should have considered instead of a tax increase to help recompense funds. Lawmakers could have changed items such as the obsolete road-funds distribution formula so that the projects most in need would come first. Iowa lawmakers could also have looked to cut non-essential and costly projects, such as Iowa’s own “Bridge to Nowhere” in Dallas County, before seeking a $215 million taxpayer funded increase.
Our friends at ITR noted in a news release prior to the passage of the tax hike, “this bill is simply a short-sighted band-aid, which would be one more burden on Iowa taxpayers and a heavy burden on low-income Iowans, while big special interests profit.” Citizens of the Hawkeye State deserved better from their elected officials.