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Transportation budget draws unanimous support

Transportation budget draws unanimous support

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DES MOINES — As budget bills go, the Iowa Department of Transportation $384 million operations budget is “fairly non-con,” Rep. Dennis Cohoon, the ranking Democrat on the transportation appropriations subcommittee, told colleagues Tuesday.

They proved him right, approving Senate File 497, 96-0 just a day after it was approved 49-0 by the Senate.

The reason the transportation budget is “non-controversial” is that it doesn’t affect the general fund. That’s because the budget, which funds 2,748 full-time equivalent positions, includes $51 million from the Road Use Tax Fund and $333 million from the Primary Road Fund.

It’s a $13 million increase over the current budget, which Rep. Dan Huseman, R-Aurelia, attributed to a pair of large projects — a new maintenance garage in Dubuque and a change in the way the department replaces its medium- and heavyweight trucks. After a study, the department learned it would be more cost efficient to replace equipment more frequently.

Cohoon, a Burlington Democrat, noted that the Iowa DOT realized $213 million from the 10-cent-a-gallon increase in the gas tax last year.

“We’ll have to kind of keep an eye on that to see how that does in the next year to see if we still bring in basically that same amount of revenue to maintain our current road system,” Cohoon said.

The House voted 97-0 to approve Senate File 498 to distribute federal block grants to various state agencies.

The state receives more than $7 billion from the federal government annually. The bill authorizes the state to receive and spend block grants totaling $426.3 million in fiscal 2018 and $332.5 million in fiscal 2019.

The House also approved House File 625 that would eliminate a requirement that taxpayers say on their tax returns whether they have health care coverage for dependent children. Last year, it passed 97-0. Tuesday is passed 56-41.

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Statehouse reporter for The Courier

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