Kaufmann talks gas tax, cameras
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · March 15, 2013

State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann asked for a show of hands: Who here supports the idea of a gas tax increase?

Seven of the eight in attendance Saturday in the West Branch Public Library meeting room raised their hands.

Larry Bailey, the only one who did not raise his hand, said he is reluctant to believe that any taxes go down.

“What is a retired person to live on?”

Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said he is “philosophically against” raising the tax, but realizes the state has failing roads and bridges.

“I would only be able to stomach it if (we keep) a constitutionally protected road use fund,” he said.

The gas tax has not been raised since the mid 1980s, he said, but cars are more fuel efficient and more people are buying electric cars.

“I do not want to be responsible for the next bridge that breaks when a bus drives over it,” the District 73 representative said.

He said the state is facing a “transportation cliff” in that the 10-year budget for roads and bridges was spent in seven years.

Kaufmann said he predicts “and hopes” for a grand bargain that maintains tax revenues while bringing commercial property taxes and real estate property taxes under control while fixing gas taxes.

Bailey scoffed.

“You’ve got to believe in a good fairy if you believe that’s going to happen,” he said, reminding the legislator that electric car owners do not pay gas taxes.

“I don’t believe in fairies,” Kaufmann responded, adding that there is bipartisan support for both the gas and property tax issues. And there is serious talk of adding a small annual fee to get modern electric cars paying into the road use fund.

On the subject of roads, Kaufmann stated that there will be no traffic camera bill this session.

Ken Fawcett, who lives near Springdale, said he supports using traffic cameras because they do bring down speeding and they cost less than a patrolman.

Fawcett said he now enjoys driving through Cedar Rapids on Interstate 380.

Larry Hodgden of Tipton agreed.

“Every year, they try to ban them,” he said of the legislature. “But cameras make it safer, especially in that ‘S’ curve (in Cedar Rapids). And I don’t feel too sorry for people going through at 70 there.”

A few other topics Kaufmann discussed:

• That high-speed rail may not be financially viable — the transportation chair is arguing it will likely result in a net export of entertainment dollars to Chicago.

• The House bill for education wants to give an additional $305 per pupil to schools, while there is a rumor that the Senate bill would give another $400. He added that other states are seeing scores go up, while Iowa test scores are about the same. He wants 2-percent allowable growth, but only if it is tied to education reform.

• That one property tax bill wants a 2-percent cap on residential and agriculture, and that is brings commercial property tax down from 100 percent to 80 percent in four years. Doing nothing will mean a $2.6 billion increase in taxes over the next 10 years, he said.

Kaufman also heard a presentation by sixth-graders Jayden Roth and Logan Norfleet, who are part of the Lead Tacklers, a Learning Without Limits Science Club team. The two shared their findings about lead fishing tackle on the environment and said they would like to see a ban on lead tackle weighing less than an ounce so it is not eaten by fish or birds.

Kaufmann opened the Listening Post meeting expressing sympathies to the West Branch residents on the passing of Mayor Don Kessler on Feb. 24.

Skyscraper Ad