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Branstad says he’s open to gas tax hike

Governor would link increase to property, income tax cuts

August 8, 2012
By BILL SHEA, , Messenger News

ROCKWELL CITY - Gov. Terry Branstad said Wednesday that he would consider raising the state's gasoline tax as part of a broader package that would cut property and income taxes.

During a town hall meeting in Rockwell City, the Republican governor said the gasoline tax should be called a user fee because it's paid by everyone who drives on Iowa roads and buys fuel in the state.

''Mainly we want to focus on reducing the property tax and the income tax, but I'm willing to consider increasing the user fee a modest amount over a couple of years,'' he said.

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Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds was also at the session, and she talked about the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Advisory Council that she leads with Ben Allen, the president of the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. Reynolds said the panel works to increase student interest and achievement in those fields. She added that it also seeks to improve access to science and technology education.

About 20 people attended the town hall meeting in the Rockwell City Community Center.

Gasoline taxes

Iowa's gasoline tax is 21 cents per gallon, and it has been at that level since 1989. According to the state constitution, revenue from that tax can only be spent on roads.

''For the future, we see there is going to be a shortfall unless we do something,'' Branstad said. ''And this affects counties and cities as well as the state.''

He didn't say how much he would be willing to raise the gasoline tax.

He said he wants to combine a gasoline tax increase with cuts in the property and income taxes to produce a ''net tax reduction for Iowans.''

During the last legislative session, state Rep. David Tjepkes, R-Gowrie, and state Sen. Tom Rielly, D-Oskaloosa, introduced bills to increase the gasoline tax by 4 cents in 2013 and 4 cents in 2014. Those bills did not advance in the legislature.

Branstad had previously said he wanted to postpone action on any gasoline tax hike until Paul Trombino, the director of the Department of Transportation, had a chance to find ways to save money within his agency. He said changes made by Trombino will save $50 million in administrative costs.

Science education

Reynolds said the science, technology, engineering and mathematics program is a $4.7 million initiative that will have a paid director and regional advisory boards.

Branstad said there is ''sometimes a disconnect'' between educators and the business community that results in students not being fully prepared for the jobs that exist in the state.

He added that school districts should partner with community colleges to provide specialty courses that wouldn't otherwise be available. Thanks to dual enrollment programs between schools and community colleges, students can now earn college credit while still in high school, he added.



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