Greetings to you all!
With the next legislative session starting on January 14, 2008, I have been busy visiting with organizations and constituents. I recently held two public forums seeking input from constituents. The first meeting was held at the Cedar Falls Community Center. The discussion focused on many issues including health care concerns, environmental issues, transportation issues, energy costs and social security concerns. I want to thank Alisa Morris from Congressman Bruce Braley’s office, for attending the forums to answer any questions. The second meeting took place at University of Northern Iowa and focused on issues relating to post secondary education. One of the key issues discussed was tuition and how its impacting families and students. The latest tuition increase approved by the Board of Regents was the lowest in 27 years.
The Tax Amnesty Program, which accepted applications through October 31, has accounted for approximately $26.4 million in total General Fund and non-General Fund gross receipts. The Tax Amnesty program covers tax liabilities, delinquent as of December 31, 2006, and authorizes a taxpayer during the period of the tax amnesty program, to pay this tax with one-half of the interest which would ordinarily be due without being subject to further penalty or civil and criminal prosecution. The taxpayer must agree to relinquish all administrative and judicial rights to challenge the imposition of the tax and its amount.
Rising construction costs continue to erode the buying power of Iowa’s highway agencies. The Iowa Department of Transportation's analysis of construction award prices highlights the dramatic increases experienced in recent years. The Iowa DOT's analysis of construction contract award prices for the last three and a half years showed roadway excavation prices have risen by 66.4 percent, hot-mix asphalt by 28 percent, Portland cement concrete by 2 percent, reinforcing steel by 33 percent, structural steel by 18 percent, and structural concrete by 9.5 percent.
Reflected in these higher construction prices are the increased costs of materials, machinery, wages, fuel, and insurance. For instance, diesel fuel used in asphalt mixes, and construction vehicles and equipment rose 88 percent in the last two years. These higher construction prices are having a dramatic impact on the buying power of state and local highway agencies. The legislature is looking at various methods to address this problem. While many things are being discussed, it appears that an increase in the gas tax is off the table.