Iowa Opinions — Gas Tax Hike

A gas tax increase is winning over Iowa editorial pages.

The Des Moines Register’s editorial board this morning endorsed the idea of raising Iowa’s gasoline tax. The DMR contends  an 8-cent increase is good for the state’s long-term health, and could actually help state state’s struggling economy in the short term:

It would create jobs. (State Sen. Tom) Rielly has said that every $100 million invested in transportation projects creates 5,000 jobs. Combined with the injection of federal stimulus dollars and Gov. Chet Culver’s proposed $700 million bonding program for a variety of infrastructure projects, if it passes, thousands of Iowans could be put to work.

The Register notes that Culver has said he doesn’t support an increase. And the Sioux City Journal hopes he sticks to his guns:

We remain opposed to an increase. The day may – probably will – come when a discussion of increasing the gas tax is necessary, but this year isn’t the year. Raising a tax which impacts the pocketbooks and bottom lines of virtually all families and businesses during a year of recession strikes us as bad economic policy. Beyond that, the Legislature last year passed a package of vehicle fee increases which when fully phased in will generate some $160 million a year for road and bridge work and last week, of course, the House and Senate passed an economic stimulus bill with tens of billions of dollars for transportation infrastructure.

The Burlington Hawkeye repeats its support for a gas tax increase, which it prefers to the notion of “Big Brother” mileage tax being floated elsewhere:

Now comes new Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood with an idea that should be quickly and quietly shelved.

We’re not opposed to new concepts — President Obama did promise change — but to tax motorists on how much they drive instead of how much gasoline they use is a bad idea.

But that’s what LaHood said in an interview last Thursday with the Associated Press.

“We should look at the vehicular miles program where people are actually clocked on the number of miles that they traveled,” the former Republican lawmaker from Peoria said.

Lawmakers in several states are warming to that concept as well. So far, not in Iowa.

Every vehicle would be required to have global satellite positioning technology and other equipment to record the number of miles it was driven, on what roads it was driven and at what time.

That much Big Brother surveillance is creepy just to envision, let alone implement.

 So, with The Gazette’s earlier endorsement of the tax hike, that makes it 3-1 in the daily newspapers I surveyed, at least the ones that do a decent job posting editorials. If you know of others, please share.

My own unscientific and largely inconsequential poll of blog readers last month showed support for a 5-cent increase, 56 percent in favor with 39 percent opposed. But I think Senate President Jack “War on Potholes” Kibbie voted 50 times. Can’t prove it.

The gas tax isn’t the only tax issue out here.

The Quad-City Times takes issue with a constitutional amendment approved overwhelmingly by lawmakers that would spend three-eighths of a cent from any future state sales tax increase on natural resources programs. Iowa voters must still weigh in on the measure in 2010, and it does not directly authorize a tax increase.

Still, the Times argues this isn’t the right time:

The goals of the bill are all laudable. Who doesn’t want cleaner water, better fish and wildlife habitat and more outdoor recreational opportunities?

But we all know this could eventually cost taxpayers money. For now, there are enough pressing issues on the plates of our lawmakers and certainly for taxpayers without being asked to make a decision that could boost expenses for everyone.

Consideration of the idea now does a disservice to its ultimate goals.

With the economy as sour as it is, who really thinks voters will agree to increase their own tax burdens? We believe this is an idea that can wait until a more robust economy allows everyone to give it the consideration it is due.


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