The bill passed the Iowa House and Senate on Tuesday after legislative leaders from both parties worked with the Republican governor to reach a consensus on a funding package to provide an additional $215 million annually for city, county and state roads.
Branstad received Senate File 257 in his Iowa Capitol office on Wednesday morning and immediately signed it.
"This is a great example, on a difficult and controversial issue, of the kind of bipartisan cooperation that really makes Iowa stand out as a state where we work together and we get things done on behalf of the citizens of our state," Branstad said. "This is important for economic development. This is important for our farmers to be able to get their crops to market. I know that many people have been waiting a long time for this." The last gas tax increase was in 1989.
The tax increase will go into effect at the pump on Sunday, March 1. Branstad said he wants to begin collecting the additional tax now to permit cities, counties and the state to advance their schedules for badly needed work on roads and bridges.
One road project that could be accelerated because of the additional gas tax revenue, the governor said, is the expansion of U.S. Highway 20 in northwest Iowa from two lanes to four lanes. The Iowa Department of Transportation is currently working on a section of U.S. 20 between Moville and Correctionville, leaving a 37-mile stretch between Correctionville and Early. Once the final piece is completed, U.S. Highway 20 will be a four-lane expressway from Sioux City to Dubuque.
About the bill
The revenue gained from the additional fuel tax would be used to help plug a $215 million funding gap. That money is needed to meet the most critical needs on Iowa's 114,000-mile road system, where many aging roads and bridges need repairs, according to state studies. The measure also includes increases in fees charged for permits needed to operate oversized and overweight trucks.
Iowa now spends about $2 billion annually on its road system. But a recent industry report cited federal data showing 27 percent of Iowa's major urban roads and highways have pavement in poor condition, while 13 percent of rural roads are in poor condition. In addition, the research noted more than a quarter of the state's bridges are rated as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
Iowans are sharply divided on the gas tax increase, according to the most recent Des Moines Register Iowa Poll. A survey conducted earlier this month found 50 percent of respondents opposed raising the gas tax by about 10 cents, while 48 percent were in favor and 2 percent were not sure.
For a person who drives 15,000 miles a year in a vehicle that gets 25 miles per gallon, the higher fuel tax would cost an additional $60 annually, or an average of $5 a month.