Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Gas Tax Can Wait

So you all know I absolutely hate the idea of raising the Gas Tax during these difficult economic times. That’s not to say that I don’t believe in investing in our roads and infrastructure. If you listen to any of the legislators who support the gas tax increase you would think that Iowa hasn’t done anything to recently to help fund road improvements, which simply isn’t true.

Last year the legislation was passed and signed into law that increased vehicle registration fees substantially in our state. The increase in registration fees was one of the recommendations from the Time-21 study. The problem the legislators are having is that money isn’t rolling in fast enough. Remember Time-21 says that $200 million is needed per year at a minimum, but we should remember Time-21 is the Iowa DOT and just like every state agency they are lobbying for money. Just because state money goes for roads or schools does not mean we shouldn’t scrutinize their request.

I find it ironic that the story here isn’t about Speaker Murphy and Supreme Leader Mike Gronstal both wanting the increase and Governor Culver opposing it. Last session it was news worthy when they were at odds over labor issues, but we are not hearing anything about this dispute. Republicans need to be more disciplined, if the Governor is public in his opposition to the tax why on earth would anyone in the minority party think it’s a good idea to even address this issue until he publicly says he would sign it into law.

I don’t know why on earth we need to do this now. Like any family going through tough economic times we can fix what’s critically important now, and do the rest later. We also might be wise to see that the federal stimulus will mean to Iowa. If they want to fund shovel ready projects, nothing is better than roads. It also means that things bike trails will have to wait as I have yet to see major economic development take place around them.

I think the gas tax debate also feds into the labor bills that will be up for debate. On one hand we have all of these needs in terms of road construction, but at the same time they are pushing 4 huge labor bills which would raise the cost of construction exponentially. Which one is more important, roads, or the 12% of Iowans who belong to a labor union? I think we know that answer.

Finally, I’m troubled by the fact that Time 21 will not say what the immediate priorities are. They say they don’t want to politicize specific projects. What if there is some sort of bridge to nowhere? It’s our money they are spending; shouldn’t we know where it’s going? In FY07 Iowa received around $1.5 billion from state and local taxes and the feds, thats a lot of money for roads but yet we are being told another $200 million is a life and death matter. Meanwhile, I’m told that the Road Use Fund has more money it in now than ever before.

Would the goverment please stop taxing me. Go and find more money elsewhere in the budget to fix our roads. $200 million isn’t all that much to find in a $6.2 billion dollar budget; however the $400 to $500 a year a family will pay in increased taxes will hurt them.

I also was thrilled to see Iowans for Tax Relief come out against the gas tax. Historically they have been neutral in this matter. There help will be critical in getting Iowa Republicans to say no to higher gas taxes. Krusty Kudos to my good friends ins Muscatine.


  1. I have one major problem with your current and previous posts. You make the gas tax increase proposal an “us versus them” issue. For example, you and several people on this blog have posted calling for primaries against and political destruction of republicans who support a gas tax increase. While I do support the proposal to increase the gas tax, I also run around half cocked calling for primaries against elected officials who are against the gas tax proposal.

    This is a difficult political decision and I both understand and appreciate your points concerning raising taxes during a recessionary period. However, that doesn’t mean that people who are supporting the increase are any less worried about how this will affect the family pocketbook. What it does say though is that political leaders within our own party are willing to do what’s right, even if it means the democrats might actually be in favor of something.

  2. First I have not called to oust any Republican over this issue or to encourage a primary opponent.

    Here’s the deal, I think that most Republican legislators go to Des Moines or legislate; to do what they think is best for the state. I appreciate that. The problem is the other side is playing politics, they always have. Trust me, they know exactly how many Republican votes exist for the gas tax and they know it will drive our Republican base nuts.

    In the last campaign Democrats affectively used the gas tax issue to defeat 3 republican incumbents, even though many Democrats, including their leadership also supported the proposal. Don’t fool yourself, for the Democrats this is about November 2010, not the Time-21 study. Republicans are clearly in the minority in Des Moines, yet they are the one who keep talking about raising the gas tax. I’m waiting for anyone to tell me how that is a good political move for Republicans.

    All any Republican in this state has to say is “I agree with Governor Culver, now is not the time to be raising taxes in this state.” Is that so hard? Why are we basically fighting against a Democrat Governor for not wanting to raise taxes? Think about it for a second.

    We have had a ton of debate on this blog about the condition of the Republican Party here in Iowa. Some want to blame the social conservatives; others want to blame the moderates. I blame our elected officials. Where is the message of fiscal responsibility? Where is message about making government smaller and more efficient? The Time 21 study is an opportunity to trim back government in other areas and fund things that really matter like roads and infrastructure, yet we lack the discipline to do it.

    For example, in 2008 the Iowa DOT used a half a million dollars of the Road Use Tax Fund for software to manage electronic documents. I don’t know maybe that’s really important, but it sure seems a little high to me. Can’t we look for waste and duplication before we go back to the taxpayer with our hand held out?

    Times like these are perfect in doing just that.

  3. Bravo Krusty! Bravo!

  4. Kudos Krusty. You are right on the mark on this.
    The reason we don't have money for road maintenance (or anything else for that matter) is because Culver and the Democratic Legislature have added over $1 billion dollars in unnecessary spending to the budget.

    Vote this down. Let them hang by their own rope.

  5. Two things that need to be considered:
    (1) How can you criticize a Republican when there's nothing in the platform about the gas tax? I don't believe that the platform is the only decisional document a legislator needs to consider, but many of your readers do.
    (2) Iowa's expenditures for road purposes are about 6th in the country. That's probably because we have more miles per capita than other states, but it still suggests that there may be prudent ways to live within our means without a tax increase.

  6. Krusty,

    In response to your post above, without going to far down the rabbit’s hole, one of the key reasons why Republicans keep losing elections is due to a lack of vision. We can sit back and chuck rocks at the democrats all day long, but if we don’t have a plan of our own to address the problems our state is facing, then we better get use to being in the minority for a long time.

    Iowa SF-you may or may not be aware, but most of the road money doesn’t come from the general budget. The gas tax is a separate fund and in constitutional protected from politicians spending it on teacher pay and other government programs. If money is collected from the gas tax, it goes to road building. Subsequently, money from the general budget is typically not used for road funding.

    There is one other point that I would like to have everyone consider. One of the major factors in the price of a gallon of gasoline is due to consumer demand. Over the course of a week the price gas might go up or down 15 to 20 cents based on nothing more than demand. In other situations the jump in price is created by forces with the simple desire to increase profit margins. My question is, why is it that everyone gets there panties in a bunch when we want to increase the price of a gallon of gasoline by 8 cents, but when gas was near $4 dollars a gallon last summer, Krusty & Krew didn’t bust out the ‘ole pitch forks and torches, and make such a stink then? An .08 cent increase will result in around $40 more per year per person and help pay for the roads. A two dollar increase in the price of gas makes Exxon and Arabs rich.

  7. being fiscally responsible is in the platform. Reducing government is in the platform. Lowering, not raising, taxes is in the platform.

    Only wonks care about where we rank in gas tax. What the hell kind of logic is that. Are we aspiring to number 1?

    Pay for the roads with the 600 million we are getting from the feds, err, I mean, me.

    We are paying for those roads twice. Once with the US is a Failure/Bailout money and now with this gas tax.

    You are cutting your nose to spite your face, idiots.

    If I pay more in gas tax, I can't buy pizza from the local restauranter, who then has his income reduced and he has to lay off staff, who then apply for unemployment benefits and because of their reduced income, can't buy groceries from the local grocery store and must use the foodbank.

    What are you doing!!!! Stop it now. Stop taking more and more money out of my pocket.

    PRIORITIZE and RE-PRIORITIZE. Be leaders, not democrat stooges.

    And, when it was $4.00 a gallon, there was much howling. Where were you? I suppose somewhere where TV and Radio are not heard.

    Maybe you didn't realize that Algore invented the internet.

    The populous is pissed off like I've never seen and they are going to take it out on their electeds.

    I know that i sure intend to do that.

  8. "The populous is pissed off like I've never seen and they are going to take it out on their electeds.

    I know that i sure intend to do that."

    Where ya been, friend? We "did that" two years ago and again just three months ago.

  9. Dear 2:40,

    Yeah it will just $40 right….

    That $40 you talk about is for 500 gallons of gas. That much gas gets me about 15,000 miles. I drive a lot more than that. Let’s consider the following scenario.

    A traditional Iowa family, Mom, Dad, Senior, and sophomore in High School.

    Dad drives his Ford F-150 about 30k miles a year. He gets 15 mpg. His taxes just went up $160 bucks.

    Mom drives a mini van to soccer games and to and from work. She drives 20k a year and gets 22 mpg, her taxes just went up $72.80.

    Junior who’s girl crazy and never home has some old pick-up truck that gets 19 mpg and he drives 20k a year. His taxes just went up $82.52.

    The little girl in the family just got a car, she gets 30 mpg and drives 10k miles. Her taxes went up $26.72.

    That’s not talking about the boat, 4-wheeler, motor home, lawn mower, weed eater, and the gas I need to start a bonfire.

    So it’s not $40, it’s more like $400.

    And that will be on top of increased property taxes they will have to pay due to things like fair share, and Culver under funding local governments.

    And don’t forget, the feds want to raise it something like 20 cents a gallon.

  10. So really Krusty is just bitching about this because he drives more than the average person. Well tough shit. You use the roads more then you should pay more.

  11. He already does pay more. We already pay tax on gas. If we raise the gas tax, YOU pay more as well.

    I understand that it is constitutionally protected, but I maintain that the General Fund should also have an infrastructure budget.

    Culver and the Dems keep telling me the answer to everything is gambling funds, so they can use those to pay for the roads too.

    What we should not have been doing is adding over 1 billion dollars in spending to the budget and giving ourselves a 770 million dollar shortfall. My math could be mistaken, but the difference appears to be over 200 million.