- Associated Press - Monday, April 20, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - It would be a “mistake” for an eastern Iowa city to use additional fuel tax revenue to hire staff instead of spending it on road and bridge work, Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday.

The proposal from city officials in Clinton “violates the spirit” of the fuel tax increase, approved by lawmakers this session, Branstad said at his weekly news conference.

“I think it would be a mistake to use this additional money, which is supposed to go for roads and bridges … in the city of Clinton, or any of the other cities and counties, to hire more staff,” he said.

The law, which went into effect in March, raised Iowa’s fuel tax by 10 cents to finance infrastructure work. The Iowa Department of Transportation said it plans to spend a record $700 million on state and interstate highway projects this year, according to The Des Moines Register, and about $200 million of which will come from the increase.

The Clinton City Council is considering using nearly half of $470,000 in fuel tax money to hire three equipment operators, according to the Clinton Herald. Those employees’ work would include street repairs. The rest of the funding would be used for things such as touching up previous street projects and new equipment.

Messages left for Clinton’s mayor and city administrator were not immediately returned Monday.

Branstad said his comments echo David Rose, chairman of the DOT commission that helps identify transportation needs and implement programs. Rose has expressed that communities should use the funding for road and bridge work because it’s how the law was sold to lawmakers and others.

“We have integrity on the line,” Rose said Monday.

DOT spokeswoman Andrea Henry said the agency encourages local governments to use the money for infrastructure needs, but it’s ultimately a local decision.

“Use of the gas tax funds as far as how specifically they use them are left up to the cities and counties,” she said.

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