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Gas-tax issue dominates legislative coffee

Published: Monday, March 3, 2014 11:15 a.m. CST • Updated: Monday, March 3, 2014 11:25 a.m. CST
Caption
Iowa Rep. Jack Drake, left, talks with Jerry Katzer of Creston after a legislative coffee Saturday at the restored Creston Depot.

The state of Iowa’s infrastructure was on the agenda during a legislative coffee Saturday when local citizens raised questions to Rep. Jack Drake, R-Griswold, and Sen. Hubert Houser, R-Carson.

Currently, there is an estimated backlog of road repairs totalling approximately $215 million, according to a Cedar Rapids Gazette February story.

In January, a bipartisan subcommittee passed legislation for a three-year, 10-cent increase in fuel tax.

One option in opposition to a gas tax was creating a toll road.

“Would there be any possible consideration of selling Interstate 80 and turning it into a toll road, and letting a private enterprise operate it, which would do a lot of things for the state of Iowa,” said Mike Lang of Creston. “It would reduce the amount of money the transportation department has to spend maintaining Interstate 80, and it would possibly increase taxes by some private enterprise and make some profit.”

Drake responded to Lang’s comment, saying a toll road wasn’t a highly-discussed option.

“That’s something that we’ve not heard much of at all,” said Drake. “I’d be pretty hesitant myself overall, but I’m willing to listen and see if there’s better ideas to do things.”

Houser said the current legislation would treat a gas tax as a type of sales tax, which would be a percentage instead of a consistent amount per gallon.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen this year,” Houser said. “I will say it seems like more and more people are becoming aware that something’s got to be done.”

According to Houser, the last gas tax spike was in 1988, when the tax to gas was at 21 cents per gallon. Revenue increased during that time, but now “they’re flatlining.”

Tax pros and cons

There are a number of pros and cons to a gas tax. Benefits of a gas tax will include more usage of public transportation, less air pollution and money spent on infrastructure within the state. It will also mean people who drive and use roads will be the ones paying for the road repairs, rather than those who don’t.

However, there are also cons to the situation. Such cons include burdens to the lower and middle class, gas prices are already high and there are other options to consider instead of taxing to improve infrastructure.

Mentioned

Also mentioned during the coffee was the topic of telemedicine abortions.

Currently, telemedicine abortions are legal in the state of Iowa after an Iowa judge stayed a decision made by Iowa Board of Medicine August 2013.

Telemedicine abortion is an abortion via pills the woman takes during a meeting with a doctor over a webcam. These procedures are geared toward rural areas where it is more difficult for doctors to reach.

The next legislative coffee will be 8 a.m. April 5 at Creston congregate meal site at the restored Creston Depot.

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