Both the Iowa House and Senate passed a 10-cent increase in the gas tax yesterday in what will likely be this session’s largest legislative accomplishment (or failure, depending on your view). The vote breakdown in both chambers was fascinating, one of the few majorly controversial bills that doesn’t come down to a party-line vote. Democrats and Republicans split nearly in half, with endangered incumbents both voting for and against.

Chip Baltimore, on the other hand, chose to skip out on the bill altogether, despite being present at the Capitol. The Republican representative from Boone did vote against the bill in committee, but oddly bailed on the final tally. Radio Iowa asked him why, to which he responded, “I refuse to legitimize either the bill or the process with a vote.” OK, Chip.

This seems like a case where he thought this might be a good idea, but didn’t bounce it off a single person who would have told him, “no, that’s a very, very bad move.” At least the other legislators had the courage to record their opinion for all to see. Baltimore supposedly has higher political ambitions, none of which will be helped by ducking out on this important vote. If he makes this bad of calculations on political maneuvers, why would anyone want to donate or support a larger campaign of his? Profiles in courage, indeed.

On the Senate side, it was once again obvious which party has the better political skills. Gronstal’s entire slate of 2016 targeted Senators all voted against the tax. Chris Brase, Brian Schoenjahn, Steve Sodders, Rich Taylor and Mary Jo Wilhelm voted no. So did Liz Mathis and Chaz Allen, potential future statewide candidates. Republicans seemed to not get the memo and did the exact opposite. Three of their most endangered 2016 members voted for the tax hike: Mike Breitbach, Mark Segebart and Dan Zumbach. Breitbach represents a spread-out, rural district in the corner of northeast Iowa. Everyone up there drives long distances each day between the small towns spread across the hilly countryside. They probably won’t appreciate their Senator raising taxes on their long daily commutes.

Also, is there something I’m missing about the gas tax’s importance to northeast Iowa? Tod Bowman and Josh Byrnes led the efforts in their respective chambers. Brian Moore, Breitbach and Zumbach all took tough votes for it. Of course, for all the dissecting of people’s votes for political purposes, it’s entirely possible they strongly believed in the bill and wanted to vote accordingly. Legislators do still do that in Iowa. Well, except for Chip Baltimore. He just runs away when there’s a tough vote.

 

by Pat Rynard
Posted 2/25/15

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