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Lawmakers and lobbyists in Iowa are pushing for an additional 10 cent per gallon gasoline tax, on top of the 21 cent gas tax already in place. Raising the gas tax, especially in this stalled economy, would hurt Iowa families by forcing them to pay even more at the gas pump. This proposed tax would be particularly cruel since the average gas price in Iowa is a whopping $3.70 per gallon.
Proponents of the gas tax argue that it “will be a minor cost for the average Iowan." But as the Iowans for Tax Relief writes in their report, gasoline taxes are regressive and hit lower income Americans the hardest. Poor Iowans that live on a fixed budget may not be able to afford to spend more money filling up their gas tank. An extra 10 cents on every gallon of gas can really add up for families that live paycheck to paycheck.
Those in favor of the gasoline tax claim that the revenue generated will be used to repair the roads. However, Iowa already has several well-funded highway repair programs including the Road Use Tax Fund (RUTF) and the separate “TIME-21” funding stream that is supposed to focus solely on road maintenance and construction.
Iowans already pay a significant amount of money to the Road Use Tax Fund (RUTF) through existing gasoline taxes and vehicle registration. One has to wonder, why does the state need even more money to repair the roads? Iowans for Tax Relief estimates that average Iowa family pays $600 annually into the RUTF.
What is the RUTF doing with all of this money? Instead of raising the gas tax, perhaps we should look into how the RUTF and TIME-21 is spending the roughly $1.298 billion collected from residents. If the roads are in such poor shape—like proponents of the gas tax claim—then this signals that the RUTF is doing a poor job of prioritizing its funds and more money will not help the problem.
There are some state lawmakers that are determined to see the gas tax pass this session and Governor Terry Branstad has not come out against the gas tax. In fact, he has said that he might even support a gas tax if passed by the legislature. That is unacceptable—a recent poll shows that an overwhelmingly majority of Iowans oppose raising the gas tax.
The last thing Iowa needs is an increase in the gas tax that would further cripple the economy and hurt hardworking Iowa residents. Iowa residents should let their voices be heard.