House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, told reporters Thursday that a bipartisan agreement would come together yet this session on incentives aimed at expanding access to broadband internet across Iowa. Paulsen said negotiators report “pretty good conversations” are taking place and they are getting closer to consensus on one of Gov. Terry Branstad’s 2014 priorities. The governor identified property tax incentives for increasing access to high-speed internet in his Condition of the State in January while a Senate panel expanded them to include low-interest loans and income tax breaks along with property tax exemptions. House Democratic Leader Mark Smith of Marshalltown said the issue is complex and needs “to be done right” to be effective. “The trick is how do you figure out how the state can intervene and incent behavior without just incenting people to do something that they already were going to do?” added Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs. He said it was less clear whether negotiations were moving to consensus and he noted that time is running on that issue and others if breakthroughs don’t develop soon with adjournment on the horizon. “If we can’t get to consensus on them, they will be left behind,” he said.
FUEL PRICES IN IOWA: Fuel prices in Iowa appear to be leveling off at least for now. The price of mid-grade unleaded gasoline blended with 10 percent ethanol averaged $3.46 per gallon across Iowa on Tuesday, according to AAA. That was up a penny from last week’s price and down eight cents a gallon from one year ago. The price of regular unleaded gasoline averaged $3.56 a gallon, which was unchanged from last week. The national average on Tuesday was $3.53 per gallon. Retail diesel fuel prices in Iowa dropped a penny on the Tuesday report with a statewide average of $3.84 per gallon, down 10 cents from a year ago. For heating fuels, propane prices fell nine cents compared to last week’s price with a statewide average of $1.88 per gallon. Home heating oil fell five cents to a statewide average of $3.47 per gallon, and natural gas prices in Iowa were down 19 cents from last week’s report, ending the week at $4.48 / MMbtu.