GOP chairman urges Iowa Republicans to 'kill' gas tax hike 'once and for all'

Leaders from both parties say there's a wide split of views on the issue

Rod Boshart
Published: January 31 2014 | 1:28 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:57 am in
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The chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa issued a GOP call to arms Friday to block efforts at the Statehouse to raise the state gas tax this session.

“Forget Frankenstein's Monster,” GOP chairman A.J. Spiker said in a fundraising email. “The gas tax hike seems to be the creature that just won't die!”

Spiker said last session Republicans, with the help of independents and some Democrats, “did everything possible” to ensure that taxes weren’t raised on Iowa families and succeeded.

“But now there are some legislators still trying to raise taxes; taking even more money from hardworking Iowans,” sais Spiker, noting that a House subcommittee this week forwarded a bill to the full Transportation Committee seeking to raise the state gas tax by 10 cents a gallon over three years.

Spiker’s email did not point out that three of the five subcommittee members who signed the report on the gas tax measure are majority GOP representatives. The GOP chairman’s email did include a list of state legislators and urged Republicans to “tell them to kill this horrible bill once and for all.”

“But don't worry -- this fight has only just begun. And just like last year, the Iowa GOP refuses to back down,” Spiker added. “As Republicans we believe we need to cut taxes, not raise them.”

Speaking earlier Friday on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” show, Republican Gov. Terry Branstad said Iowa currently is in the midst of a record $700 million transportation building year but he acknowledged the state needs a long-term sustainable way to address critical needs in the future.

The governor said he has met with leaders of House and Senate transportation committees from both parties to discuss “what is the art of the possible” in finding a bipartisan solution. He said the only way that a gas tax hike would happen is if a majority in both houses reached consensus – like what happened in the late 1980s when the state gas tax was last increased.

“I would be very willing to work with them to see if that’s possible, but I know that’s a long and difficult road,” the governor said.

During their weekly news conferences Thursday, legislative leaders from both parties indicated there is support and opposition on both sides of the political aisle to raising the state gas tax.

“I don’t know that anything has changed,” said House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha. “There are a lot of different ideas on the table and I know they’re working through them. I think we’re a long ways from any kind of final decision.”

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said he is willing to consider the issue but “we have to have willing partners” to pass something that has bipartisan support in both legislative chambers. “So far we have not seen that level of cooperation,” he said.

Senate GOP Leader Bill Dix of Shell Rock said he has members who have strong feelings both ways on the gas tax issue. He said they’re listening to their constituents and most Iowans “feel their roads are in relatively good shape, but they’re also recognizing that we have some long-term consequences to the quality of our roads if we don’t realize that sometime in the near future we’re going to need to do something to address resources in the road fund.”

House Study Bill 514, which was signed by all five subcommittee members – two Democrats and three Republicans -- would increase the current state tax on gasoline by 3 cents per gallon next July 1, another three cents a gallon on July 1, 2015, and 4 cents a gallon on July 1, 2016.

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