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The ground rules seem to have been set concerning the sexual assault allegations against nominee Brett Kavenaugh. Also on the Monday rundown: we will take you to a state where more than 60 thousand kids are chronically absent; plus the rural digital divide a two-fold problem for Kentucky.

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Iowa Legislature Approves Gas Tax Hike for Roads, Bridges

PHOTO: Voices across Iowa are calling for a 'Fix It First' approach to roads and bridges, following Tuesday's passage of a bill to raise the state gas tax by 10-cents. Photo credit: Phil Roeder/Flickr.
PHOTO: Voices across Iowa are calling for a 'Fix It First' approach to roads and bridges, following Tuesday's passage of a bill to raise the state gas tax by 10-cents. Photo credit: Phil Roeder/Flickr.
February 25, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa - The Iowa Legislature has approved a 10-cent hike in the state's gas tax to fund roads and bridges, and residents and organizations speaking out after the bill's passage say the initial focus must be on repairing existing infrastructure.

Laura Belin, a 1000 Friends of Iowa board member, said the group didn't take a stance on the gas tax itself, but added that the funding priority for roads and bridges must be "Fix It First" instead of adding new roads or lanes.

"If the lion's share of new revenue goes toward building new roads or adding new lanes to existing roads," she said, "we'll be no closer to maintaining the decaying infrastructure that has been used to justify the gas tax increase."

The gas tax hike was approved Tuesday by the Iowa Senate and House and now awaits the signature of Gov. Terry Branstad, who says he'll announce his decision after a careful review of the legislation. If the bill is signed, the new tax would begin Sunday and raise about $200 million a year.

The latest research on Iowa's transportation troubles shows that about half of all of the state's rural roads, major urban roads and highways are in mediocre condition or worse. Belin said upgrading and maintaining that infrastructure as a top priority is key to the state's economic future "because the 'Fix It First' strategy is a way to reinvest in our communities, and it maximizes the value of our past investments, and it stretches the tax dollars we have."

The last time fuel taxes were raised in Iowa was in 1989.

The text of the bill, SF 257, is online at coolice.legis.iowa.gov. Road data is at tripnet.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA