Should Iowa's Fuel Tax Increase To Fund Rural Road Improvements? - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Should Iowa's Fuel Tax Increase To Fund Rural Road Improvements?

Updated: Jan 28, 2013 10:28 PM CST
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People who fill up their gas tanks in Iowa may be asked to pay a little more - That's if the Iowa Soybean Association has anything to say about it.

The Soybean Association is asking legislators to raise the state's fuel tax to fund what it says are critical improvements to rural roads.

Now the Soybean Association is the first to tell you, it is a rare day when farmers ask for higher taxes.

It is a mark, they say, of the need for better rural roads that farmers are asking for a fuel tax hike now.

Remember - Iowa hasn't raised it's fuel tax since 1989 - and a lot has changed since then.

"Farms have gotten bigger, the implements that we haul grain to the market have gotten bigger, and so the wear on the roads and bridges has become more intense," Dan Petersen, a Muscatine County farmer, said.

But the money to maintain the rural roads and bridges continues to come up short.

And while Dan Petersen says Muscatine and Scott Counties especially do a good job of maintaining their rural infrastructure with was resources they have, that is not the case everywhere.

"We have lots of bridges for example that are too narrow for semis, or can't support a semi to get across," Carol Balvanz, Policy Director for the Iowa Soybean Association, said.

And farmers pay the price.

"Without good roads, you can't get the products that you grow to market," Petersen explained.

But for those who don't rely on rural roads so often, like the people we met up with filling up at a gas station in Davenport, the idea of higher gas taxes can be a tough pill to swallow.

"I guess, it kind of hurts my pocket now....but I guess the better the roads, I guess we wouldn't use as much fuel, so I don't know. I'm kind of mixed about it," said Angela Schmedt. The Coal Valley native admitted that she is probably biased, because she comes from a farming family.

Others we spoke to were less conflicted.

Bottom line for one of those drivers, Juan Trevino, is that gas costs too much already.

"The last time was 25 or 30 cents cheaper than what it is right now, so I don't think it's right," Trevino said.

"It's outrageous," he added.

The Iowa Soybean Association's Policy Director said she understands that concern:

"Does it hurt? Yes. And when gas prices are where they're at, no one wants to see it raised," Balvanz said. "But we also know that the longer we wait, the more repairs we have to make and more expensive those repairs will be."

"You can't keep putting it off forever. Sooner or later, you've gotta pay the cost," Petersen affirmed.

One big reason farmers have offered their support for an increase in the state's fuel tax is that it's a Constitutionally protected fund. That means the money can only be used for roads and bridges.

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