The Paulsen Perspective: Difficult Decision

SpeakerKP

This week the legislature passed and the governor signed a bill to raise the gas tax in Iowa by 10 cents. This is not a new issue for the legislature. In one form or another, it’s been discussed since before I was first elected in 2002. I have also had a great deal of contact from Iowans like yourself; many supporting an increase, many opposing, and some just asking questions.

Overwhelmingly, Iowans have concluded that our roads and bridges needed a greater investment. Of great concern to me personally, many counties have already bonded for roads and bridges, adding debt that the property taxpayer will be forced to re-pay.

Proposed solutions to this problem have been numerous and fluid for years. Nearly every solution gets some support from some Iowans while at the same time losing support from others.

The most frequently discussed ways to deal with the state’s failing infrastructure have been:

  • Raise the state sales tax
  • Bond
  • Use the money in the General Fund
  • Raise the fuel tax

In my mind, raising the sales tax is a nonstarter. It places the burden solely on the backs of Iowans and sales tax dollars are not constitutionally protected as to how the money can be spent. It is true that could be changed, but that would take years and did not appear to have enough support at this time.

Bonding or putting more debt on the backs of property taxpayers across this state is something I do not support. We should pay for road construction on a pay as you go basis.

Using General Fund dollars becomes difficult because history has proven those funds will be scooped and raided to pay for other things. It too forces only Iowans to pay. While raising taxes at all is not ideal, raising the gas tax ensures the burden is shared by out of state drivers who utilize our roads and that there is a constant, constitutionally protected amount of funding set aside for road and bridge construction.

Ultimately I decided to support raising the fuel tax to get more money into our infrastructure. The bill also included limitations on how the money could be spent, required the DOT to implement more efficiencies in its processes and procedures, and placed limitations on bonding.

The other issue surrounding this bill is the fact that I made changes to the Ways and Means committee membership in order to get the bill to the House floor. I want to explain that process.

After the elections are certified in November, I spend the next month or so making committee assignments in the House. It is not uncommon to make changes to those assignments during session, as the need arises.

When I realized this bill was unlikely to clear the committee I made changes so the bill could keep moving through the process. The two members I removed from the committee are both great legislators who work very hard for their constituents.
I was not going ask them to change their vote on the question, nor did I have any interest in pressuring anyone else.

Some want to question my motives. The truth is there was only one motive behind making the change and that was to allow all Iowans (and their representatives) a chance to weigh in on this question through a vote of all 100 members. From my perspective, what I did wasn’t hindering or silencing Iowans, it was giving them more opportunity to weigh in on an important topic.

Raising taxes is a decision I do not take lightly, but you didn’t send me to Des Moines to only vote on easy issues. You sent me to address the big problems, which is what I believe I did by supporting this bill. I realize that we may not agree on this question. But I thought it would be helpful to share my thoughts.

There continue to be many issues that need to be addressed as we move forward. We will continue our work of going through budgets line by line and rooting out waste.

I will continue working on your behalf, looking for ways to save taxpayers money, to rein in state spending and to come up with commonsense solutions to problems facing our state. I have appreciated your insight into this issue, and all issues that have come before the House. I hope you’ll continue to engage with me and the rest of your state government. I know we all do better work when Iowans are engaged and participating.

As always, if you have questions or concerns please contact me at kraig.paulsen@legis.iowa.gov or (515) 281-3521.

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  • Jay Johnson

    As long as we spend it in critical infrastructure I’m fine paying. Bike paths and pedestrian bridges are not critical infrastructure. Nothing is quite as frustrating as driving behind a line of Huffy’s going 10mph on the highway that has a bike path running parallel to it.

  • markbu

    Why not cut something else to pay for it instead?

  • dav2535

    betrayed by the republicans again. higher taxes and audits by the state is how you plan to fix deficit problems? i give up you politicians win, i am moving to south dakota.

  • Roseanne Roseannadanna

    “Raising taxes is a decision I do not take lightly.” Especially when it means special interest dollars in your pocket, right, Mr. Paulsen? Why else did you kick off several key opponents off the tax committee at the last minute, just to replace them with people *you knew* would vote in your favor. You’re a crooked politician, the same as the rest.

Dansette