Iowa governor says road funding a top priority, solution could include fuel tax increase

Providing more funding to fix Iowa's crumbling roads is a top priority, Gov. Terry Branstad said Thursday, noting that he's open to all options, which could include raising the state's fuel tax.

Branstad, who won re-election Tuesday to his sixth non-consecutive term, did not offer a specific plan. He said that he wants input from lawmakers before the next legislative session, with hopes of reaching bipartisan consensus. The Legislature, which convenes in January, has failed to find compromise on this issue in recent years.

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The Republican governor said the timing was good to start this conversation because gas prices have "dropped significantly," but Branstad stressed he would like to find a new funding strategy.

"I also think trying to take a new approach, not just the old gas tax, but really looking at the whole funding formula for the road use tax fund and see if we can come up with a more modern system that will meet our needs for the long term," Branstad said.

Many of the state's bridges and roads are considered deteriorating or deficient. Iowa's fuel tax — now 22 cents per gallon, including fees — hasn't been raised since 1989. A commission appointed by Branstad in 2011 recommended an increase of 8 to 10 cents a gallon.

State Rep. Josh Byrnes, a Republican from Osage who has lobbied in favor of a fuel tax hike in the past, said he was glad the governor was focusing on road funding.

"We've been talking about how do we approach this, what's the best mechanism to make this happen," said Byrnes.