Legislators were looking for ways to add funds to address these deficiences. And, now with fuel prices finally dipping below $2 per gallon for the first time since mid-May 2008, they have set their sights on increasing the gas tax 10 cents per gallon.
The gas tax has been 21 cents per gallon since 2008. The American Petroleum Institute shows that Iowa currently has the 15th lowest fuel tax in the country. With a 10 cent per gallon increase, to 31 cents, Iowa would have the 13th highest fuel taxes in the country.
Democrats in the state have proposed a gas tax increase in the past but failed to garner bi-partisan support. While Democrats still control the state Senate, Republicans control the House and many thought the bill would just die. Unfortunately, this year was different.
The state Republican leadership has undergone dramatic changes in the past year as those close to the establishment wing of the party regained delegates at conventions throughout the state.
In March 2014, the libertarian leaning Iowa GOP Chair AJ Spiker, was pressured to resign after years of clashing with the establishment. His replacement, a social conservative named Danny Carroll, only lasted a few months before he too was ousted, this time by the Iowa State Central Committee.
Now, under this new influence of Republican leadership, the gas tax increase proposal entered the House.
On the same day the bill was going to the Ways and Means Committee for a vote, the Speaker of the House Kraig Paulsen, a Republican, abruptly pulled two Republicans from the committee who were opposed to the gas tax increase. He replaced them with two Republicans who would “toe the line.”
The bill passed the Ways and Means Committee with a 13-12 vote. (Democrats also could have kept it from getting out of committee when one Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee voted “yes,” previously voted “no” just the day before and three Democrats voted "yes" in the Ways and Means Committee, yet voted "no" on the final vote. )
With easy passage the House, and a little navigation from the speaker of the House, the bill was ready for a floor vote.
The gas tax proposal passed the Senate 28-21 in the morning, with 12 of 23 Republicans voting “yes” and it passed the House 53-46, with 30 Republicans voting “yes.” One Republican in the House abstained.
Republican Gov. Terry Branstad had three days to sign or veto the bill, but didn’t waste any time and signed it right away. The 10 cent per gallon increase goes in effect this Sunday.
For many Iowans this represents the first major impact of the result of an establishment Republican take over. Although this only affects Iowa, and Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio.) appears to have stopped progress on an increase in the federal gas tax, conservatives and libertarian-leaning voters are closely watching Republican leadership throughout the country for similar shenanigans involving other bills.
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