Iowa governor candidate Jack Hatch proposes raising gas tax, capturing budget surplus to improve infrastructure

DES MOINES — Iowa gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch on Thursday proposed raising fuel taxes and capturing part of the state’s budget surplus to address what he called an “infrastructure deficit” across the state.

The additional funding streams ultimately would direct hundreds of millions of dollars to roads, bridges, school buildings and broadband internet lines, all of which Hatch said were either falling into disrepair or woefully underdeveloped.
Iowa state Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines.

Iowa state Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines.

“As a state government, we haven’t been able to adequately provide the resources to maintain the roads, streets, bridges that we currently have,” Hatch, a state senator from Des Moines, said, “let alone the building of roads, streets and bridges that we will need to maintain a competitive edge in the future.”

Hatch’s plan would raise the state’s fuel tax by 2 cents per year over five years, ultimately raising $212 million in new revenue annually that could be spent on roads and bridges. The plan also calls for capturing 20 percent of the state’s current budget surplus and 20 percent of future surpluses for infrastructure work. Given the current surplus, that could provide $180 million for such projects immediately.

Increasing the gas tax has been discussed frequently in recent years, but has not been pursued by the Legislature and is generally seen as politically unpopular.

Hatch said as governor he could convince voters of the need for improved roadways and the merits of the tax increase. He also suggested that when combined with an income tax break he’s offered, middle-class Iowans would see a net reduction in their tax obligations.

Hatch, one of two declared Democratic candidates for governor, announced the plan in a conference call with reporters.

Documents accompanying the announcement identify nine “immediate needs” in Iowa, including highway projects identified by the Iowa Department of Transportation, bridge repairs and replacements, the widening of U.S. Hwy. 20 , broadband internet expansion, railroad improvements school construction, flood-control and water-quality projects.

Hatch is running in the Democratic primary against state Rep. Tyler Olson, of Cedar Rapids. Incumbent Republican Terry Branstad hasn’t formally announced, but is widely expected to seek a six term in 2014.

Read the rest of the article at the The Des Moines Register ►