DES MOINES — The state’s gas tax will increase 10 cents per gallon if Gov. Terry Branstad signs a measure approved Tuesday by state lawmakers.
The proposal, which each year would generate $200 million in new transportation funding, passed Tuesday after debate that split lawmakers in the Iowa Senate and House.
“I honestly feel like we are doing the right thing today,” said Rep. Josh Byrnes, R-Osage, who managed the House bill.
Branstad told The Associated Press he wants to review the bill but indicated he was "very likely" to sign it into law.
If the governor approves the measure, it will go into effect on the first day of the ensuing month.
The governor has three days to consider the bill once it reaches his desk, which legislative officials said should happen late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
The state is considering the gas tax increase as a means to cover its estimated $215 million annual shortfall for repair and construction projects on roads and bridges.
The 10-cent gas tax increase would generate $204 million in the next fiscal year and would decline slightly and gradually each year to $195 million in fiscal 2020.
Supporters say the gas tax represents the best way to increase transportation funding because it can be spent only on road projects and is paid for by those who use the roads.
“This is a bill that’s had broad support from four caucuses and the governor’s office,” said Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa, who managed the Senate bill. “And it focuses on three core components … it’s a fiscally responsible, pay-as-you go system. You get as much bang for your dollars as you can. The revenue is constitutionally protected for road use. It’s a user fee concept. Those who use the road, including our out-of-state drivers, help pay for the roads.”
Critics decried the tax increase and the manner in which transportation funds are divided and said the state should find the extra funding in other areas of the budget. Some also were critical of the speed and manner in which the proposal was passed through the legislative process last week.
“With the passage of this bill, what we are communicating to the everyday, hard-working taxpayers of Iowa, whether we intend to or not, is that the money (taxes) that we collect from them on a daily basis is just not enough. What we are essentially saying is that in the billions of dollars that we spend every year on behalf of Iowans, there’s no waste, there’s no excess, there’s no fat in our budgets,” said Rep. Greg Heartsill, R-Columbia. “I, for one, am not willing to accept that.”
Among Quad-City area lawmakers, Rep. Jim Lykam, D-Davenport, said boosting the gas tax would prevent more of the cost of infrastructure upgrades from falling onto property taxes.
"It was the only option I heard that was fair," he said.
Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, voted against the gas tax increase.
"I did not campaign on raising taxes," he said.
Smith said the state's general fund should have been tapped for the money instead.
Figures from the state transportation department estimated the increase will mean nearly $3.2 million more in fiscal year 2016 for municipal and county governments in Scott County.
The governor and legislative leaders from both parties met multiple times early this session and agreed on the 10-cent gas tax increase. Because of the political ramifications that can come with endorsing a tax increase, those leaders said they would present the measure only if it had strong bipartisan support from both parties in both chambers.
On Tuesday, the proposal passed the Senate 28-21, and the House 53-46.
In the Senate, 16 of 26 Democrats and 12 of 23 Republicans voted for the increase. Senate Democratic leaders said they thought the 12 Republican votes were sufficient to show bipartisan support.
In the House, 23 of 43 Democrats and 30 of 56 Republicans supported the proposal.
(Times reporter Ed Tibbetts contributed to this article)