Gas tax hike will likely have tough road ahead -
Published Sunday, February 2, 2014 at 1:30 am / Updated at 12:25 am
Iowa legislative coffee
Gas tax hike will likely have tough road ahead

COUNCIL BLUFFS — Don't expect much mileage from efforts to raise Iowa's gas tax this year, according to one member of the Legislature.

“I really doubt we will raise the fuel tax,” Rep. Greg Forristall, a Republican from Macedonia, said Saturday at the year's first Legislative Coffee in Council Bluffs. “A lot of people don't support it.”

One of them apparently is Gov. Terry Branstad, Forristall added.

“The governor isn't expressing enthusiasm for it.”

Raising the gas tax to pay for highway improvements and efforts to end greyhound racing were two topics discussed at the Saturday morning Wilson Middle School event, attended by State Sen. Mike Gronstal, a Democrat from Council Bluffs and Senate majority leader; Rep. Mark Brandenburg, a Republican from Council Bluffs; and Forristall.

A five-member House subcommittee last week unanimously proposed a 10-cent gas tax increase implemented over a three-year period.

Forristall and Gronstal both support the measure.

A 10-cent tax increase would provide $4 billion to help fund state road improvements estimated to cost $20 billion, Gronstal said.

“I will find a way to support a gas tax increase,” he said.

Brandenburg said he would consider a tax hike, but is also concerned it could hurt small businesses dependent on vehicles that deliver products daily.

On greyhound racing, Gronstal said he and Sen. Pam Jochum of Dubuque, the other Iowa city with racing, might support shutting down the operation, but 48 other senators may not agree or simply don't care about it.

“It's an interesting issue,” Gronstal said.

Dog racing is no longer a viable business, Brandenburg said, but he added he hopes supporters and opponents can reach a solution satisfactory to all.

Brandenburg hopes his effort to increase the number of State Patrol officers also gets a satisfactory solution in the Legislature.

“We're at a critical level,” he said of the trooper shortage. “We currently have the same level of troopers as in 1965.”

Every year the state loses more troopers, whether to retirement or other reasons, than hiring new ones to take their place, he said.

“One of my priorities is more state troopers (this year),” Brandenburg said.

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