While legislators in Des Moines continue to haggle over how to raise money to repair, maintain and expand Iowa’s crumbling roads, County Engineers and others keep pressing Iowa’s leaders to increase the Gas Tax. Cass County Engineer Charles Marker is one person who hopes legislators will stop fighting over the matter and get a bill passed that will give him more money to fix the roads that he can’t fix given his current budget.
Marker says the gas tax hasn’t changed since 1989 inflation “Has been eating us [meaning the County Secondary Roads budgets] alive, because [the] Road Use Tax is two-thirds of my budget.” Marker says about half of the property tax dollars he receives locally, are used to purchase road rock. Without an increase in the RUTF, they’re falling being on getting the roads fixed. Even when property taxes go up, according to Marker, his department’s share of the money doesn’t change. He says he has been capped at his maximum Mil levy for the past 12-to 15-years, and when the property taxes go up, it’s caused by something other than Secondary Roads.
Marker says when there’s no money, there’s no improvements in road infrastructure. The Iowa County Engineer’s Association, a trucker’s lobby, the Iowa Association of Contractors and others are lobbying for an increase in the gas tax, which Governor Branstad has said is “not popular” with Iowans. Marker disagrees. He says from what he hears, people are not opposed to improving county roads. The question remains however, “How do we fund them?” Marker says Road Use Taxes are just that – User supported – meaning they are paid by tourists, truckers and anyone who uses Iowa’s roads, when they fill-up with gasoline, in the state.
Marker understand no one wants to pay more for gas, especially with the day-to-day fluctuations in prices, the gas tax is something that – if approved – would be spread out over a period of three- years. The one-time 10-cent increase would be phased-in three-cents for both the first and second years and four-cents the third year.
He also wanted to dispel rumors that funds derived from the tax would be used for anything other than road repairs. Marker says that’s simply not the case. If the misconception were alleviated, there would be an up-swell of support among the public in favor of the specifically designated tax.