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Gas Tax to Pay For Flood Damage?

Legislative Leaders in Iowa are continuing to talk about a special session of the General Assembly [1], which makes sense. The Governor is doing a good job of expressing the need to prioritize working on the current relief effort AND establishing a solid assessment of the costs before holding a session.

The bad news is, the only option being mentioned by the media (although there are almost certainly others) is an increase in the gasoline tax. That would be a bad idea. Better to raise the sales tax than the gasoline tax. Gas prices are already creating too much of a burden for everyone… a 1% increase in the sales tax with a well planned time-limit to cover flood related needs would be more appropriate. And even that should come after first using a portion of the state’s emergency fund (never use it all).

More importantly, I think we need to take another look at the budget and see where we can cut some more fat. Obviously, there will be critical infrastructure needs to address… and ensuring we can see people get back into their homes, even if rebuilding is necessary. However, there are probably dozens of items in the current budget that just should be suspended until we resolve this.

Notice I did not make any suggestions about federal funds. Those will be coming, of course, and will be a help to many property owners. I’m also sure there will be some emergency farm accommodation as well, so we need to be sure we take all of these sources into consideration. I’m not, however, a fan of taking money from people in other parts of the country to solve our problems. I really do think we can take care of things ourselves. The problem we face, however, is the entitlement mindset in the midst of disaster. Somehow we automatically have an obligation to return everyone’s fortunes to the way they were before a disaster. If we can accomplish this through charities, donating time and resources at the community level and such, then I think that’s awesome. But to have an automatic system to make sure everyone gets the same level of restoration is unnecessarily costly, prone to overspending and abuse. If we can get this kind of thing out of the hands of the government altogether it would be perfect!

But at the same time, I do want to make sure that the needs of families and individuals are well-met. And I don’t mean throw a blanket on them and wish them well. Help them, house them, feed them, help them up until they can get back on their feet. But try not to FEMA them… that might hurt more than it helps.