So Gov. Chet Culver finally used the dreaded “V” word to describe what he would do with a gas tax increase if lawmakers passed it.
Why it took him so long to finally draw a veto from his holster is unknown, but today’s the day.
He blamed the tough economy, and he insists his giant bonding fund and federal stimulus dollars make a tax increase unnecessary. That’s what he’s been saying for weeks.
But here’s the thing, if you look more than a couple years down the road, lots of politicians on both sides of the aisle concede that a gas tax increase will be necessary, someday. Even State Auditor Dave Vaudt says it.
It’s not brain surgery. It’s been 20 years since the last increase, and road-building costs are simply rising much faster than revenues. Even hundreds of millions of dollars in federal help and bonded debt can’t cover billions in projected transportation needs.
So you know you’ll have to do it eventually, gas is relatively cheap right now and you have a legislative makeup that’s favorable for passage. But you can’t pull the trigger because you’ve got a governor who is afraid he won’t get re-elected next year. Gutsy.
I have a feeling a couple years from now that lawmakers will look back at this moment and wish they had taken advantage.
I also know that Culver will eventually propose a gas tax increase. Voters know it too. So I’m not sure he really gained anything.