Iowa Public Television

 

Rep. Geri Huser & Rep. Dave Tjepkes

posted on March 30, 2007

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Borg: FUNDING ROADS. IOWA LEGISLATORS PONDERING FUEL TAX INCREASES FOR ROAD BUILDING. INSIGHT FROM HOUSE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE LEADERS GERI HUSER AND DAVE TJEPKES ON THIS EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.'

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY 'FRIENDS,' THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.

ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, MARCH 30 EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.' HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: IT'S BEEN 18 YEARS SINCE IOWA'S GENERAL ASSEMBLY HIKED THE STATE'S TAX ON GASOLINE, AND ROAD BUILDERS SAY IT'S TIME FOR AN INCREASE. BUT MAJORITY DEMOCRATS IN THE IOWA LEGISLATURE AREN'T JUMPING ON THE POLITICALLY RISKY IDEA YET WITHOUT REPUBLICAN SUPPORT. IOWA'S TAX AT THE PUMP IS A DEDICATED TAX CHANNELLING ALL REVENUES DIRECTLY INTO CONSTRUCTING AND MAINTAINING ROADS. CURRENTLY IOWA IS ADDING 21 CENTS TO A GALLON OF UNLEADED FUEL, 19 CENTS STATE TAX ON E10 ETHANOL, 17 CENTS ON E85. WE'RE GETTING PERSPECTIVE TODAY FROM THE RANKING REPUBLICAN ON THE HOUSE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE, DAVE TJEPKES OF GOWRIE, AND THE COMMITTEE'S CHAIR, ALTOONA DEMOCRAT GERI HUSER. WELCOME TO 'IOWA PRESS.' FIRST-TIME GUESTS ON 'IOWA PRESS' TOO. IT'S NICE TO HAVE YOU HERE. ACROSS THE 'IOWA PRESS' TABLE: POLITICAL COLUMNIST FOR 'THE DES MOINES REGISTER' DAVE YEPSEN AND 'ASSOCIATED PRESS' SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER MIKE GLOVER.

Glover: REPRESENTATIVE HUSER, LET'S START WITH YOU. DEFINE THE PROBLEMS FOR US. WHAT'S NEEDED HERE? WHY ARE WE EVEN TALKING ABOUT RAISING THE GAS TAX?

Huser: WELL, OVER THE LAST TENS YEARS, THE IOWA LEGISLATURE HAS ACTUALLY BEEN LOOKING AT THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, THE ROAD USE TAX FUNDING THAT WE HAVE. AND WE'VE TRIED TO MOVE ALL OF THE FUNDING THAT'S MOVED OUT OF ROAD USE TAX FUND BACK INTO IT. CURRENTLY TODAY WE HAVE NOT INCREASED ANY OF THE REVENUE, AND WE ARE SEEING INCREASED PROBLEMS WITH MAINTENANCE AND SAFETY, WHETHER IT BE AT THE STATE LEVEL, THE CITY LEVEL, OR WITH THE COUNTIES. SO THE PROBLEM AS WE SEE IT IS REDUCTION IN THE FUNDING, THE FAILURE TO MAINTAIN OUR ROADS ADEQUATELY, AND THE CITIZENS ACROSS THE STATE ARE VOICING THEIR DISAPPROVAL AT THAT, SO WE'RE TRYING TO ADDRESS THAT ISSUE.

Glover: REPRESENTATIVE TJEPKES, DO YOU HEAR THE SAME DISCONTENT THAT ROADS NEED TO BE FIXED?

Tjepkes: YES, AND WE'RE LOOKING AT THE TIME 21 STUDY, WHICH THE PREVIOUS LEGISLATURE COMMISSIONED THAT STUDY. IT WAS A STUDY DONE BY THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, ALONG WITH CITIES AND COUNTIES AND OTHER INTERESTED PARTIES. AND THAT'S THE BASIS OF WHAT WE'RE LOOKING AT, AND THEY'VE CLEARLY IDENTIFIED A LOT OF THE NEEDS AND A LOT OF THE PROBLEMS WITH OUR TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM.

Glover: YOU BOTH HAVE BEEN ON AROUND THE LEGISLATURE FOR A WHILE. REPRESENTATIVE TJEPKES, I'M GOING TO START WITH YOU BECAUSE THE DEMOCRATS SAY THIS WON'T HAPPEN WITHOUT REPUBLICAN SUPPORT, SO LET'S GET RIGHT TO IT. IS IT GOING TO HAPPEN?

Tjepkes: WELL, WHETHER OR NOT THIS HAPPENS IS GOING TO DEPEND ON THE MAJORITY PARTY LEADERSHIP. REPRESENTATIVE HUSER AND I ARE WORKING ON A BILL. WE HAVE THE DRAFT OF THE BILL, BUT IT MEANS NOTHING UNLESS SPEAKER MURPHY AND GOVERNOR CULVER SIGNAL THAT THEY WANT TO DO SOMETHING. IF THEY SIGNAL THAT THEY WANT TO DO SOMETHING, THEN WE IN THE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE HAVE WHAT WE THINK IS A PRETTY REASONABLE PROPOSAL AND WE'LL PROCEED FROM THERE.

Glover: AND HOW MUCH IS THAT?

Tjepkes: THE PROPOSAL THAT WE'RE LOOKING AT RIGHT NOW DEALS PRIMARY WITH SOME REGISTRATION FEES, AND IT FOLLOWS THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE TIME 21 STUDY, WITH A TARGET OF ABOUT $200 MILLION A YEAR.

Glover: REPRESENTATIVE HUSER, WILL IT HAPPEN?

Huser: I THINK THAT IT'S A 50/50 SHOT. I KNOW THAT REPRESENTATIVE TJEPKES AND I ARE VERY PASSIONATE ABOUT IT. WE BELIEVE THAT IT IS SOMETHING THAT HAS TO BE ADDRESSED. IT'S A PROBLEM OUT THERE, AND DEMOCRATS ARE PROBLEM SOLVERS. WE WANT TO TRY AND ADDRESS THE PROBLEM ON A BIPARTISAN BASIS. I'VE WORKED VERY HARD TO MAKE SURE THAT REPRESENTATIVE TJEPKES AND I ARE AT THE TABLE, MAKING EVERY DECISION ON THE PACKAGE. OBVIOUSLY, THE ULTIMATE DECISION OF WHETHER IT REACHES THE FLOOR OF THE HOUSE OR THE SENATE IS GOING TO BE UP TO LEADERSHIP AND THE GOVERNOR.

Yepsen: REPRESENTATIVE HUSER, I WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE POLITICS OF THIS THING. THIS DIDN'T COME UP IN WITH THE CAMPAIGN. THIS TIME 21 STUDY CAME OUT AFTER VOTERS WENT TO THE POLLS. IF THIS LEGISLATURE RAISES THE GAS TAX, DOESN'T IT JUST CONFIRM THAT DEMOCRATS ARE THE PARTY OF TAX INCREASES? YOU'VE ALREADY RAISE THE THE CIGARETTE TAX, SO NOW YOU'RE GOING TO RAISE THE GAS TAX.

Huser: DAVID, FOR ME -- I KNOW THAT I'VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT THIS ISSUE FOR MANY YEARS. I KNOW THAT MOST PEOPLE THAT ARE INVOLVED WITH TRANSPORTATION HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT IT. IN MY CAMPAIGN, I DID TALK ABOUT IT. AND IF YOU GET AN OPPORTUNITY WHEN YOU'RE WATCHING ALL THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES AND WANT TO COME AND SEE ALTOONA POLITICS AT ITS FINEST, YOU'RE GOING TO SEE US TALKING ABOUT TRANSPORTATION. I THINK THAT IT IS AN ISSUE THAT'S BEEN DISCUSSED. IT JUST WASN'T IN THE TOP 5 PERCENT OF THOSE PRIORITY THINGS THAT THE PRESS OR ANYBODY ELSE BROUGHT OUT.

Yepsen: REPRESENTATIVE TJEPKES, SAME QUESTION. THE REPUBLICAN PARTY FASHIONS ITSELF AS THE PARTY OF NO TAXES, AND YET HERE YOU ARE ADVOCATING A TAX INCREASE. WHY?

Tjepkes: WELL, FIRST OF ALL, I LOOK AT THIS FROM A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE FROM MY LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT. I HAVE HIGHWAY 20, HIGHWAY 30 THAT GO DIRECTLY THROUGH MY DISTRICT. WHEN I VISIT WITH ALL THE FOLKS IN MY DISTRICT, THE LEADERS, THE COUNTIES, THE CITIES, THERE IS A NEED FOR THAT. WHAT GETS DONE ON THE TAX REMAINS TO BE SEEN. I HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH THAT WILL BE SUPPORTED IN EITHER CAUCUS, BUT WE HAVE TO START FROM AN INDIVIDUAL BASIS.

Yepsen: REPRESENTATIVE TJEPKES, THE MAJORITY PARTY, THE DEMOCRATS, SMELL A RAT HERE. THEY SMELL A TRAP THAT REPUBLICANS -- YOU'RE SAYING IT'S UP TO THE MAJORITY PARTY, SO THEY HAVE TO PUT UP 51 VOTES ON THE BOARD IN ORDER FOR THIS TO PASS BEFORE ANY REPUBLICAN VOTES FOR IT. THE DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP SAYS, 'WE'RE NOT GOING TO DO THAT BECAUSE ALL THAT WILL HAPPEN IS REPUBLICANS WILL USE THIS ISSUE AGAINST US IN THE FALL CAMPAIGN.' SO HOW DO YOU GET AROUND THAT PROBLEM?

Tjepkes: WELL, THE SIMPLE FACT IS WHOEVER THE MAJORITY PARTY, HAS TO GOVERN. FOR THE PREVIOUS TWO SESSIONS THAT I SERVED IN THE LEGISLATURE, WE WERE THE GOVERNING MAJORITY IN THE HOUSE. AND YOU HAVE TO STEP UP TO THE PLATE, AND YOU HAVE TO PROVIDE LEADERSHIP.

Yepsen: AND REPRESENTATIVE HUSER, I WANT TO GO BACK TO THIS QUESTION OF DEMOCRATS. YOU RAISED THE MINIMUM WAGE. THAT'S GREAT. A LOT OF PEOPLE LIKED THAT. THEN YOU'VE RAISED THE CIGARETTE TAX, AND NOW YOU'RE GOING TO RAISE THE GAS TAX. WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THE WORKING GLASS PERSON WHO SAYS, 'THEY'VE RAISED MY MINIMUM WAGE BUT NOW I HAVE TO USE IT ALL TO PAY MY CIGARETTE AND GAS TAXES'?

Huser: WELL, THAT'S ONE OF THE REASONS WHY REPRESENTATIVE TJEPKES AND I ARE LOOKING AT IT. IT IS A TAX INCREASE. WHETHER IT'S FEES, WHATEVER PROCESS WE USE, IT IS GOING TO BE A TAX INCREASE. WE NEED TO GET A PACKAGE TOGETHER THAT LEADERSHIP AND THE GOVERNOR SELL TO IOWANS, AND THAT'S WHAT WE'RE GOING TO BE WORKING TOWARD.

Glover: AND THE REALITY IS, I WOULD EXPECT, THAT IF YOU DON'T DO IT THIS YEAR, YOU WON'T DO IT NEXT YEAR BECAUSE NEXT YEAR IS AN ELECTION YEAR.

Huser: I DON'T THINK THAT THAT'S ACCURATE. YOU HAVE SEEN IN THE PAST WHERE A GAS TAX INCREASE WAS PASSED IN AN ELECTION YEAR. AND I DON'T RECALL THAT ANY DEMOCRATS OR REPUBLICANS LOST THEIR SEATS WHEN THEY VOTED FOR THAT.

Glover: REPRESENTATIVE TJEPKES, HOW MORE DIFFICULT DOES IT GET NEXT YEAR?

Tjepkes: WELL, WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT ANY KIND OF AN INCREASE IN TAXES AND REVENUE, I DON'T THINK IT MAKES THAT MUCH DIFFERENCE IF IT'S THIS YEAR OR NEXT YEAR. YOU'RE JUST TALKING A SPAN OF TWO YEARS, AND WE'RE ALL UP FOR REELECTION. I THINK THE IMPORTANT THING IS THAT YOU REPRESENT THE BEST INTERESTS OF YOUR DISTRICT. AND I'VE BEEN UP FRONT WITH ALL THE FOLKS IN MY DISTRICT, AND THEY CERTAINLY UNDERSTAND THE TRANSPORTATION NEEDS THAT WE HAVE IN THAT PART OF THE STATE. AND I'M JUST UP FRONT AND VERY HONEST WITH THEM. AND THEY REALIZE THAT, YES, SOMEHOW, SOME WAY, THESE ROADS HAVE TO BE PAID FOR, BE IT A GAS TAX INCREASE, BE IT A REGISTRATION FEE INCREASE, OR A COMBINATION OF BOTH. SO I THINK IT BEHOOVES EVERY LEGISLATOR FROM HIS OWN PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE, HIS OR HER OWN PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE, TO BE HONEST WITH YOUR FOLKS BACK HOME. AND THEY'RE RECEPTIVE. THEY UNDERSTAND WE NEED HIGHWAYS. THEY UNDERSTAND THE NEED FOR INFRASTRUCTURE. AND THEY ALSO -- YOU KNOW, THEY'RE VERY INTELLIGENT FOLKS OUT THERE. THEY UNDERSTAND THAT HAS TO BE PAID FOR IN ONE FASHION OR ANOTHER.

Borg: REPRESENTATIVE HUSER, REPRESENTATIVES TJEPKES EARLIER IN OUR CONVERSATION HERE, SAID THAT YOU HAVE LEGISLATION JUST KIND OF ON THE BACK BURNER NOW, WAITING FOR THE SIGNAL TO BRING IT OUT, BUT IT INCREASES REGISTRATION FEES. I'D LIKE TO HAVE YOU EXPLAIN HOW IT DOES THAT. THAT'S WHEN I GO IN AND BUY MY NEW LICENSES ANNUALLY THAT YOU'RE GOING TO PUT AN ADDITIONAL FEE ON ME LICENSING THE VEHICLES THAT I OWN? AND DOES THAT ALSO, THEN, DO AWAY WITH ANY CONSIDERATION OF A FUEL TAX INCREASE IF YOU'RE GOING TO INCREASE REGISTRATION FEES?

Huser: WELL, THAT'S A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT QUESTIONS, AND THIS IS A HIGHLY TECHNICAL ISSUE. BUT WHAT WE ARE PROPOSING IS TO PUT A FLOOR ON REGISTRATION FEES FOR TRUCK AND VEHICLES. WE THINK THAT THERE ARE A LOT OF INEQUITIES IN THE CURRENT SYSTEM. AND WHAT REPRESENTATIVE TJEPKES AND I HAVE TRIED TO DO, ALONG WITH A LOT OF OTHER MEMBERS OF THE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE, IS LOOK AT THE ENTIRE PACKAGE AND WHAT FUNDS ROAD USE TAX FUNDING IN THE STATE. SO WE TOOK IT FROM THE STANDPOINT WHAT'S OUT THERE, WHAT DO WE CURRENTLY DO. I DON'T THINK THERE'S ANY IOWAN THAT WOULD SAY -- FOR INSTANCE, THERE ARE 300,000 CARS IN IOWA TODAY THAT PAY LESS THAN $23 FOR REGISTRATION PER YEAR FOR THAT VEHICLE. WE THINK THAT THAT IS AN INEQUITY THAT WE NEED TO ADDRESS. AND WHETHER WE GRANDFATHER IN EVERYBODY AS THEY ARE, WE WANT TO ESTABLISH A FLOOR. IF YOU'RE USING YOUR VEHICLE ON OUR HIGHWAYS, IT'S CAUSING DAMAGE, WEAR AND TEAR. WE WANT A MINIMUM FLOOR ON THAT SO THAT FROM HERE ON OUT PEOPLE ARE PAYING FOR USAGE OF THAT ROAD. WE ARE NOT PROPOSING AT THIS TIME A GAS TAX INCREASE. WE ARE USING REGISTRATIONS, LICENSE FEE. WE ARE LOOKING AT A DIESEL TAX INCREASE THAT WILL BE ONE CENT IN THE FIRST YEAR AND ONE CENT IN THE SECOND YEAR. SO WE'RE TRYING TO LOOK AT THE ENTIRE PACKAGE WHAT'S OUT THERE, WHAT'S INEQUITABLE, AND HOW DO WE FIX IT.

Glover: REPRESENTATIVE HUSER, ONE OF THE INEQUITIES I SUSPECT YOU'RE LOOKING AT IS YOUR REGISTRATION FEE FOR PICKUPS. TRADITIONALLY PICKUP TRUCKS IN IOWA HAVE A RELATIVELY LOW REGISTRATION FEE BECAUSE FARMERS USE PICKUP TRUCKS ON THEIR FARM. WHEN I PULL INTO A RAMP IN DOWNTOWN DES MOINES, I SEE A LOT OF BIG, FANCY PICKUP TRUCKS THAT I DON'T THINK HAVE EVER HAD MANURE ON THE BACK OF THEM. ARE YOU GOING TO DEAL WITH THAT?

Huser: WE ARE TRYING TO ADDRESS THAT SITUATION, BUT WE WANT TO ALSO TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION THAT WE DO HAVE FARMERS UTILIZING TRUCKS FOR FARM-RELATED BUSINESS. WHAT WE'VE DONE WITH THE FLOOR IS SAY THAT NOBODY IS GOING TO GO UNDER $125. WE HAVE OBVIOUSLY LOOKED AT OTHER OPTIONS, SUCH AS ESTABLISHING A BEGINNING REGISTRATION FEE FOR TRUCKS OF UP TO $250 FOR ALL NEW VEHICLES PURCHASED AFTER -- FOR 2009 VEHICLE YEARS. SO WE'RE TRYING TO TAKE A LOOK AT THAT ISSUE AND FIGURE OUT HOW TO ADDRESS IT.

Glover: REPRESENTATIVE TJEPKES, HOW DO YOU DEAL WITHOUT GORING SOME PEOPLE'S OX?

Tjepkes: WELL, ANYTIME YOU ADDRESS AN ISSUE LIKE THIS, SOME PEOPLE ARE GOING TO BE UPSET WITH YOU. THAT'S JUST A SIMPLE FACT OF LIFE. BUT WE LOOK AT THE REGISTRATION THING AND, AS REPRESENTATIVE HUSER SAID, THERE'S QUITE A DISTANCE BETWEEN WHAT SOME VEHICLES PAY AND WHAT THE LOW VEHICLES PAY. SO YOU LOOK AT ALL THAT DATA, AND REGARDLESS OF WHICH INCREASE YOU LOOK AT, IT'S GOING TO BRING ABOUT A DEBATE, WELL, WHY DIDN'T YOU DO THIS INSTEAD OF THIS. BUT WE THINK IN THE OVERALL WITH THE DATA THAT'S AVAILABLE, WE THINK THIS IS MAYBE THE MOST FAIR AND MOST OBJECTIVE WAY OF ADDRESSING THIS.

Yepsen: REPRESENTATIVE TJEPKES, YOU REPRESENT A RURAL DISTRICT. DO THOSE FARMERS OUT THERE IN YOUR DISTRICT UNDERSTAND THAT IF THEY WANT TO GET A FOUR-LANE HIGHWAY 20, IF THEY WANT TO GET A FOUR-LANE HIGHWAY 30 THAT THEY MAY HAVE TO WIND UP PAYING HIGHER PICKUP TRUCK FEES. DO THEY UNDERSTAND THAT?

Tjepkes: THEY DO. AND ESPECIALLY IN MY AREA, WE HAVE A LOT OF ETHANOL PLANTS. IF YOU LOOK AT THE NORTHWEST CORNER, AND IF YOU TAKE HIGHWAY 20 IN THE 30 MILE DISTANCE ON EACH SIDE OF HIGHWAY 20, WITH ALL THE ETHANOL PLANTS ALREADY IN EXISTENCE AND THE ETHANOL PLANTS THAT ARE ON THE DRAWING BOARD, IN JUST A MATTER OF A COUPLE YEARS WE'RE GOING TO BE TRANSPORTING OVER A BILLION GALLONS A YEAR OF ETHANOL. THEY FULLY UNDERSTAND THE CRITICAL NATURE OF HAVING A HIGHWAY SYSTEM THAT ADDRESSES THAT, ESPECIALLY THE AGRICULTURE COMMUNITY.

Yepsen: DOES YOUR PROPOSAL DEAL WITH ANOTHER PET THING FARMERS LIKE TO HAVE, AND THAT'S OVERWEIGHT GRAIN HAULING TRUCKS? YOU KNOW, YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO SPEND AS MUCH MONEY IN IOWA ON ROAD MAINTENANCE IF EVERY YEAR A GOVERNOR DIDN'T GIVE FARMERS PERMISSION TO USE THESE OVERWEIGHT GRAIN HAULING WAGONS. HOW ABOUT BANNING THAT?

Tjepkes: WELL, THAT'S AN ISSUE THAT COMES UP EVERY YEAR, AND THE GOVERNOR MAKES THAT DECISION. I KNOW OTHER STATES HAVE SIMILAR PROBLEMS. YOU TAKE THE STATE OF MINNESOTA, FOR INSTANCE. A BIG PART OF THEIR INDUSTRY IS THE LOGGING INDUSTRY, AND I KNOW AT CERTAIN TIMES OF THE YEAR WHEN THEY CUT DOWN TREES AND SO FORTH, THEY HAVE A HEAVYWEIGHT OBJECT THERE, THE SAME AS OUR INDUSTRY, AND SO THAT'S A DECISION THE GOVERNOR MAKES EACH YEAR.

Yepsen: REPRESENTATIVE HUSER, WHAT ABOUT THE LEGISLATURE MAKING THE DECISION, WE'RE NOT GOING TO ALLOW THIS ANYMORE, PASS A LAW BANNING THIS? I MEAN, WHY SHOULD URBAN GAS TAX PAYERS PAY TO ALLOW FARMERS TO TEAR UP THE ROADS WITH THESE GRAIN WAGONS?

Huser: WELL, WITH IMPLEMENTS OF ANIMAL HUSBANDRY, WHICH ARE ALL OF THE FARM EQUIPMENT, WE ARE TRYING TO ADDRESS THAT. IN THIS YEAR WE HAVE SAID NO MORE. WE HAVE PASSED OUT OF THE HOUSE SAYING FLOATERS THAT ARE OVERWEIGHT, WE'RE NOT GOING TO ALLOW. THEY WERE SOLD ILLEGALLY IN THIS STATE. THERE WAS A MOVE TO MAKE THOSE LEGAL. WE SAID, NO, YOU'RE GOING TO REGISTER THEM AND YOU'RE GOING TO PAY A FINE AND FEE FOR REGISTRATION OF THESE VEHICLES BECAUSE THEY ARE DAMAGING OUR ROADS.

Glover: IS THERE ANY THOUGHT GIVEN TO GOING TO A DIFFERENT WAY OF FINANCING HIGHWAY CONSTRUCTION OTHER THAN SIMPLY TAXING GASOLINE? I'M THINKING LIKE ISSUES LIKE PUTTING A TOLL ON SOME HIGHWAYS TO LET USE PAY FOR HIGHWAY CONSTRUCTION.

Huser: WE'VE LOOKED AT THE BONDING. WE'VE LOOKED AT TOLLING. ANOTHER ISSUE WE'VE LOOKED AT IS EXPORTATION OF ETHANOL OUT OF THE STATE, AND WE'VE TRIED TO TAKE ALL OF THOSE THINGS AS A PACKAGE. THERE IS A COUPLE OF PIECES OF LEGISLATION IN REGARDS TO EXPORTING ETHANOL OUT OF THE STATE. THOSE HAVE NOT RECEIVED A LOT OF MOVEMENT, BUT I THINK REPRESENTATIVE TJEPKES AND I WOULD BOTH AGREE THAT OTHER OPTIONS NEED TO BE LOOKED AT AND WE NEED TO TRY AND DETERMINE WHAT'S BEST.

Borg: DOES THAT MEAN -- JUST EXPORTING ETHANOL, HOW DO YOU TAX THAT? WHAT DO YOU MEAN?

Huser: IT'S SIMILAR TO WHAT THE STATE OF TEXAS HAS DONE WITH THE OIL THAT THEY'VE MOVED OUT OF TEXAS. THEY PUT AN ADDITIONAL COST ONTO THAT AND THEN IT'S PASSED ALONG TO ALL OF THE USERS ON THE OTHER END AND THEN THAT MONEY COMES BACK INTO THE STATE OF TEXAS AS A REVENUE SOURCE FOR THEIR ROAD USE TAX FUND.

Tjepkes: IT'S A -- IT'S A SEVERANCE TAX AND I DON'T THINK IT'S BEEN VERY WELL RECEIVED WITHIN THE LEGISLATURE.

Glover: REPRESENTATIVE TJEPKES, DEAL WITH THAT QUESTION YOURSELF. ARE THERE CONSIDERATIONS BEING GIVEN TO OTHER FORMS OF FINANCING IOWA CONSTRUCTION, AND ARE ANY OF THOSE APPEALING TO YOU?

Tjepkes: WE HAVE STUDIED THOSE CONSIDERABLY, TOLLING, AS REPRESENTATIVE HUSER HAS MENTIONED. AND IT ALL COMES BACK TO, WITH ALL THE DATA AVAILABLE TO US, THAT WE THINK THE SIMPLEST WAY TO PUT THIS BILL TOGETHER AND WHICH IS FAIR TO MOST PEOPLE, ALL THE DATA THAT'S AVAILABLE TO US SAYS THAT WE THINK THAT RIGHT NOW THIS IS THE BEST OPTION, LOOKING AT THE REGISTRATIONS.

Yepsen: REPRESENTATIVE TJEPKES, I WANT TO GO BACK TO SOMETHING THE CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMITTEE JUST SAID. NO GAS TAX INCREASE, THAT YOU CAN RAISE ALL THIS MONEY THROUGH REGISTRATION FEES; IS THAT YOUR UNDERSTANDING?

Tjepkes: YES, I THINK WE CAN GET THERE. THE DIFFICULTY IN PUTTING SOMETHING LIKE THIS TOGETHER IS THE NUMBER OF VEHICLES. WE HAVE A HUGE NUMBER OF REGISTRATION VEHICLES IN IOWA, ALMOST AS MANY AS WE HAVE PEOPLE. SO WE LOOK AT THE DISPARITIES IN THE REGISTRATION, AND SO THAT CALLS FOR A LOT OF STUDIES, A LOT OF NUMBER CRUNCHING. I KNOW THE FIRST COUPLE OF TIMES IN PUTTING THE BILL TOGETHER, THE FIRST NUMBER DIDN'T QUITE HOLD UP. SO WE HAVE TO COME BACK AND STILL FINE TUNE THAT, AND WE'RE STILL IN THE PROCESS OF LOOKING FOR SOME OF THOSE REPORTS.

Yepsen: I WANT TO GO BACK TO THIS QUESTION OF BONDING, BORROWING MONEY TO FIX ROADS. IOWA HAS THIS PAY-AS-YOU-GO SYSTEM. IT'S GREAT EXCEPT THE TROUBLE IS THAT THE CHINESE HAVE COME IN AND RAISED THE PRICE OF EVERY SORT OF CONSTRUCTION COMMODITY OUT THERE, CONCRETE, STEEL. AND BECAUSE IOWA DID NOT DO THIS ROAD WORK A FEW YEARS BACK, WE ARE NOW GOING TO HAVE TO PAY A PREMIUM TO GET THIS WORK DONE. ISN'T IT TIME FOR IOWA TO BE BORROWING MONEY TO FIX ROADS JUST LIKE WE BORROW MONEY TO FIX UP OUR HOUSES AND OUR BUSINESSES?

Tjepkes: THAT'S ANOTHER ISSUE THAT WE EXPLORED AND THAT WE STUDIED, AND DIRECTOR RICHARDSON GAVE US SOME BACKGROUND ON THAT. WE COMPARED THAT TO A LOT OF OTHER STATES WHO HAVE GONE DOWN THAT ROUTE. AND THE PROBLEM WITH BONDING, EVEN THOUGH YOU DO HAVE SOME IMMEDIATE MONEYS AVAILABLE, YOU STILL HAVE TO CONTINUE TO MAINTAIN YOUR SYSTEM AND YOU STILL DO HAVE TO PAY BACK THOSE BONDS. THE EXPERIENCE OF MOST OF THE STATES THAT WE HAVE LOOKED AT, THEY'VE REGRETTED DOING THAT. AND SO WE THINK THAT THE PAY-AS-YOU-GO HAS SERVED US WELL, AND I WOULD SUSPECT WE'LL CONTINUE GOING THAT WAY.

Glover: REPRESENTATIVE HUSER, WE'VE HAD A LOT OF CONVERSATION OUT HERE TODAY ABOUT HOW YOU'RE GOING TO RAISE THE MONEY TO PAY FOR HIGHWAY CONSTRUCTION AND ALMOST NO DISCUSSION ABOUT WHERE YOU'RE GOING TO SPEND THE MONEY. THERE'S A VERY COMPLICATED FORMULA ALLOCATING ROAD USE TAX FUNDS TO VARIOUS ENTITIES, VARIOUS FORMS OF GOVERNMENT, STATE, LOCAL, ET CETERA. IS THERE ANY DISCUSSION ABOUT CHANGING THAT FORMULA?

Huser: WE ARE NOT LOOKING AT CHANGING THE ROAD USE TAX FORMULA. THAT'S WHY WE'RE CREATING THE NEW FUND, THE TIME 21 FUND, AND WE ARE SETTING OUT POLICY THAT IS SPECIFIC AS TO HOW THOSE DOLLARS CAN BE USED.

Glover: THIS IS SEPARATE FROM THE ROAD USE.

Huser: THIS IS SEPARATE FROM THE ROAD USE TAX FUND IN THAT IT'S A SEPARATE FUND. WE'LL HAVE A SPECIFIC POLICY. WE WANT IT TO FOCUS ON THE COMMERCIAL INDUSTRIAL NETWORK WITHIN THE STATE, WHICH IS A SEGMENT OF ROADS THAT SET UP FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PURPOSES THAT INCLUDES OUR INTERSTATES, INCLUDES HIGHWAY 20, HIGHWAY 30, SOME OF THOSE KEY CORRIDORS THAT YOU HEAR ABOUT. AND WE ALSO ARE SPECIFICALLY ADDRESSING THE ISSUE THAT WE HAVE ACROSS THE STATE WITH CONTINUED GROWTH AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES THROUGH BIODIESEL AND ETHANOL PLANTS. IT'S GREAT TO HAVE THESE PLANTS COME IN. THERE'S NO ROAD INFRASTRUCTURE IN ORDER TO ALLOW THE IMPORT AND EXPORT OF THE MATERIALS THAT ARE NEEDED FOR THOSE PLANTS.

Glover: REPRESENTATIVE TJEPKES, THE SAME QUESTION TO YOU. THE ROAD USE FORMULA WAS WRITTEN DURING AN ERA YEAR WHEN RURAL FORCES HAD A LOT MORE INFLUENCE IN THE LEGISLATURE THAN THEY DO NOW. AT WHAT POINT -- AND YOU PROBABLY THINK THAT'S GOOD COMING FROM A RURAL DISTRICT. AT WHAT POINT IS IT TIME TO LOOK AT THAT?

Tjepkes: WELL, AGAIN, WE'RE LOOKING AT THE RESULTS OF THE STUDY, THE TIME 21 STUDY. IT LEAVES THE CURRENT FORMULA IN PLACE WITH THE EXCEPTION OF ANY NEW MONEYS THAT COME UNDER TIME 21, WHICH IS THEN THE 60-20-20. ALL COUNTIES AND CITIES AND THE STATE HAVE ALL SIGNED OFF ON THAT. THEY HAVE STUDIED THAT IN GREAT DEPTH, AND THEY UNDERSTAND THAT FOR CHANCES OF GETTING NEW MONEYS OVER AND ABOVE WHAT THEY'RE CURRENTLY OPERATING ON THAT THIS IS AN AGREEMENT AMONGST THEM THAT THEY COULD ALL ACCEPT. AND LOOKING AT IT, WE SEEM TO THINK IT'S ACCEPTABLE.

Yepsen: BUT IT SEEMS LIKE YOU'RE BYPASSING THE WHOLE DEBATE OVER THE ROAD FORMULA, THAT YOU'RE JUST GOING TO SET THAT ASIDE AND CREATE A NEW FORMULA. IS THAT FAIR?

Tjepkes: NO, I DON'T THINK WE ARE. I THINK A LOT OF THAT DEBATE TO A LARGE DEGREE HAS ALREADY TAKEN PLACE WITHIN THE TIME 21 STUDY. AND THE FORMULA WILL BE PART OF THE BILL. I MEAN SO THERE'S A CHANCE IT WILL BE DEBATED.

Yepsen: REPRESENTATIVE HUSER, WHAT ABOUT THE OPTION OF JUST BUILDING FEWER ROADS? YOU GO OUT THERE AND LOOK AT SOME ROADS IN IOWA AND, FRANKLY, THERE'S NOT A LOT OF TRAFFIC ON THEM. AND I WONDER WHY -- AT WHAT POINT DOES IOWA QUIT TEARING UP THE BEST FARMLAND IN THE WORLD TO BUILD HIGHWAYS THAT RELATIVELY FEW PEOPLE USE. HAVE YOU GIVEN ANY THOUGHT TO THAT ISSUE?

Huser: WE HAVE. AND THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF DISCUSSION IN REGARDS TO IT. WHAT WE WANT TO FOCUS ON IS MAKING SURE THAT THIS TIME 21 FUND LOOKS AT ROAD ENHANCEMENTS, IMPROVING THOSE ROADS THAT ARE ON THE COMMERCIAL INDUSTRIAL NETWORK. AND AS YOU MAY OR MAY NOT KNOW, 114,000 ROAD MILES IN THE STATE OF IOWA. OF THAT, 10,000 IS THE STATE-OWNED ROADS. THE REST OF IT IS CITIES AND COUNTIES, WITH THE MAJORITY GOING TO COUNTIES. MOST THE COUNTY ROADS ARE NOT PAVED. AND SO WE'RE FOCUSING THIS MONEY SPECIFICALLY ON REGIONALLY SIGNIFICANT ROADWAYS. AND EVEN THOUGH WE'RE NOT ADDRESSING THE ROAD USE TAX FORMULA, THIS TIME 21 FUND ACTUALLY GETS AT WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT. WE'RE FOCUSING ON WHERE WE'RE GOING TO SEE GROWTH, WHERE WE'RE GOING TO SEE BUSINESSES COME IN. IT'S GOT TO BE PART OF ANY FUTURE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS THAT ARE IN THE STATE.

Glover: REPRESENTATIVE HUSER, A LOT OF DISCUSSION YOU'VE HAD IN YOUR COMMITTEE HAS BEEN ON THE SIMPLE CONCEPT OF BUILDING HIGHWAYS. YOU'RE A TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE. AT WHAT POINT DO YOU LOOK AT LARGER ISSUES? I'M THINKING FUEL EFFICIENCIES. SOME STATES, CALIFORNIA, HAVE REQUIRED HIGHER FUEL EFFICIENCY STANDARDS THAN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. AT WHAT POINT DO YOU GET INVOLVED IN ISSUES LIKE THAT?

Huser: WELL, I THINK YOU'RE SEEING SOME OF THAT THROUGH THE OTHER COMMITTEES OTHER THAN TRANSPORTATION. FOR US, WHAT WE FOCUS ON IN THE SESSION OBVIOUSLY HAS BEEN WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT OUR ROAD USE TAX FORMULA. BUT WE HAVE HAD SOME DISCUSSIONS WITH THE D.O.T., LOOKING AT HOW WE IMPROVE THAT, GET BETTER CARS AND VEHICLES THAT ARE COMING INTO THIS STATE. IT'S OBVIOUSLY SOMETHING THAT'S STILL SITTING THERE THAT NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED.

Glover: REPRESENTATIVE TJEPKES, YOU ARE A TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE. YOU'RE THE RANKING MEMBER. YOU SHOULD DEAL WITH BIG TRANSPORTATION ISSUES. AT WHAT POINT DO YOU MOVE BEYOND HOW DO I GET SOME MONEY TO BUILD A NEW IOWA?

Tjepkes: WELL, YOU LOOK AT ALL ISSUES RELATIVE TO TRANSPORTATION, AND ONE OF THE BIG CHALLENGES BEFORE US IS MAINTAINING THE EXISTING SYSTEM. SO YOU LOOK AT ALL THOSE ISSUES. WE LOOKED -- YOU KNOW, LAST YEAR, FOR INSTANCE, WE TOOK UP THE SPEED LIMIT BILL. THAT WAS AN ISSUE THAT REPRESENTATIVE HUSER AND I WORKED ON. YOU TALK ABOUT THE FUEL EFFICIENCY CARS. I THINK THE COST OF GASOLINE LARGELY TAKES CARE OF THAT. I THINK THAT'S AN INCENTIVE IN ITSELF.

Glover: DO YOU REALLY? WHEN I PULL INTO THAT PARKING RAMP IN DOWNTOWN DES MOINES, I SEE A LOT OF GAS GUZZLERS.

Tjepkes: WELL, I ALSO SEE A LOT MORE ECONOMY. I KNOW I DRIVE FEWER MILES BECAUSE WHEN THE GAS PRICE GOES UP, IT CERTAINLY AFFECTS MY POCKETBOOK.

Yepsen: REPRESENTATIVE HUSER, I WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT I UNDERSTAND THIS TIME 21 THING. TIME 21, THE D.O.T. DOES A BIG STUDY, GIVES IT TO THE LEGISLATURE RIGHT AFTER THE ELECTION. IT SAYS THAT YOU NEED $200 MILLION A YEAR TO DO ALL THESE THINGS WE'RE TALKING ABOUT. WALK ME THROUGH HOW YOU GET THE DIFFERENT COMPONENTS OF THAT $200 MILLION WITHOUT RAISING A GAS TAX. HOW MUCH COMES FROM REGISTRATION FEES? HOW MUCH FROM PICKUPS?

Huser: WELL, WE NEED TO START FIRST WITH THE $200 MILLION. THE STUDY SAYS $200 MILLION. WE HAD TO FIRST DECIDE WHETHER $200 MILLION WAS THE CORRECT NUMBER: IS IT $230 MILLION; IS IT $160-, $150-; WHERE ARE WE AT?

Yepsen: AND YOU DECIDED WHAT?

Huser: WE DECIDED THAT WE WANTED TO GET IN THE FIRST YEAR AROUND 140, WHERE IT COULD GENERATE UP TO 200 MILLION WITHIN A FOUR-YEAR TIME PERIOD. SO I DO NOT BELIEVE WE WILL COME OUT WITH A BILL OR A PACKAGE THAT STARTS AT 200 MILLION. IT'S GOING TO BE AROUND $140-, $160 MILLION. THAT'S THE FIRST STEP. THE SECOND STEP IS WE TOOK DRIVER'S LICENSE, REGISTRATION, TRANSFER TAX. AND REPRESENTATIVE TJEPKES IS GOING TO HAVE TO HELP ME ON THE OTHER TWO.

Yepsen: MY QUESTION TO YOU, REPRESENTATIVE TJEPKES, IS -- THIS IS A COMPLICATED QUESTION. I'LL JUST STATE IT. THERE'S A LOT OF TALK UP THERE IN THE LEGISLATURE ABOUT GOING TO A STATEWIDE SALES TAX FOR SCHOOLS. EVERY COUNTY HAS PASSED IT NOW, SO YOU'RE MAKING IT A STATEWIDE TAX. IF YOU DO THAT, ONE OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF RAISING THE SALES TAX IN IOWA IS TO RAISE ABOUT $50 MILLION MORE IN USE TAX REVENUES FROM THE SALE OF NEW CARS THAT GOES INTO THE ROAD FUND. IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SCHOOLS. IS THAT PART OF THIS DEAL? IS THAT PART OF THIS PACKAGE TO EFFECTIVELY KNOW, WINK, WINK, THAT WE'RE EVENTUALLY GOING TO RAISE -- IMPOSE A STATEWIDE SALES TAX FOR SCHOOLS AND YOU'RE GOING TO GET MONEY FROM THE ROAD FUND FOR IT?

Tjepkes: NO. AND AS YOU SAID, DAVID, IT IS A COMPLICATED ISSUE. THE THING ABOUT THE STATEWIDE SILO, THEN THE SALES TAX DOES GO, YOU KNOW, 6 PERCENT ON PURCHASING A NEW VEHICLE AND GENERATES $54 MILLION, WHICH WOULD GO INTO THE ROAD USE TAX FUND. THE DANGEROUS PART OF THAT IS THAT THOSE ARE MONEYS THAT ARE NOT CONSTITUTIONALLY DIRECTED LIKE THE GAS TAX AND THE REGISTRATION MONEYS THAT GO INTO THE ROAD USE TAX ARE CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED. SO EVEN IF STATEWIDE SILO WOULD BE ADOPTED, I THINK THAT BRINGS UP ANOTHER ISSUE. DO WE SOMEHOW -- HOW DO YOU PROTECT THAT $54 MILLION WITHOUT A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO MAKE ASSURANCES THAT IN FACT IT STAYS IN THE ROAD USE TAX FUND. A CONCERN THAT MY CAUCUS HAS ON USE TAX, RELATIVE TO THE ROAD USE TAX FUND, IS THAT THOSE MONEYS CAN BE SWEPT OUT OF THE ROAD USE TAX AND USED FOR OTHER SOCIAL PROGRAMS AND ALL OTHER THINGS. SO WHEN WE START TALKING ABOUT REVENUE SOURCES, BE IT REGISTRATION, BE IT FUEL TAX, WHATEVER, THE FIRST QUESTION THAT MY CAUCUS POSES TO ME IS, HEY, HOW DO WE KNOW THAT THE USE TAX ISN'T GOING TO BE SWEPT OUT FROM UNDER US FOR SOMETHING ELSE.

Borg: I'M THE SWEEPER HERE AND I HAVE TO SWEEP AWAY THE CONVERSATION BECAUSE WE'RE OUT OF TIME. THANKS SO MUCH FOR SPENDING TIME WITH US TODAY.

Tjepkes: THANK YOU.

Huser: THANK YOU.

Borg: ON OUR NEXT EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS,' A CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE. IOWA'S REPUBLICAN SENATOR CHARLES GRASSLEY PROVIDING HIS PERSPECTIVE ON THE ISSUES CHALLENGING CONGRESS. AND YOU'LL SEE 'IOWA PRESS' AT THE REGULAR TIMES NEXT WEEK: THAT'S 7:30 FRIDAY NIGHT; AND 11:30 SUNDAY MORNING. I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING YOU US TODAY.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY 'FRIENDS,' THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.


Tags: Iowa