News from the State House

by State Representative Patti Ruff

I am dedicating my newsletter this week to the passage of the gas tax bill, Senate File 257.
 The gas tax bill passed the Senate and the House on February 24th. This was a bipartisan effort that has taken years and constant communication this session to get both parties to agree to its passage. The tax increase will take effect immediately.
I voted no on SF 257. It is not because I do not think our roads and bridges need fixing, because I do. Driving back and forth to Des Moines twice a week for five months, there are certain roads across this state that are in dire need of repair. My mechanic has replaced my back shocks last year and front shocks this year because of the wear and tear on my car. The reasons I voted no are as follows:
1. 10 cents all at once is a 45% increase all in one shot. This is too much for working families trying to pay bills and put food on the table. Allamakee and Clayton are two of the poorest counties in the state. Both counties are in the bottom ¼ out of the 99 counties in per capita income.
2. Living in border counties it now puts us above our border states. I have been paying attention to the price of gas in Wisconsin and we have been consistently five cents behind. With the passage of this bill the state of Iowa will be above Wisconsin and Minnesota which will drop out of state traffic to our border towns.
3. This bill falls short in our efforts to expand the use of renewable energy. While the incentives for ethanol remain unchanged, the bill should have had a stronger biodiesel incentive that will ultimately create good jobs here in Iowa and add value to soybean crops for Iowa farmers.
4. The bill is not a long term solution. As cars become more fuel efficient and use other forms of energy, a fuel tax alone will be insufficient to keep up with the rising costs of infrastructure repairs. Hence we will be revisiting this issue again in a very short time. We need a long-term funding model that reflects a movement away from fossil fuels and toward electricity, hydrogen, and other fuel sources currently being developed. I could not support a bill that may be effective for less than a decade. We need a fifty year solution rather than a five year Band-Aid.
I was elected to represent the people of Allamakee and Clayton counties. I heard from many of you via email, phone calls, and in person on this issue both for and against. At the end of the day the majority of you opposed the bill and that was a major factor in my decision.
I will be holding a forum at Freedom Bank in Postville (parking available at the grocery store across the street) on Saturday, March 7th  at 10 a.m. I hope to see many of you there.