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Iowa lawmakers to tackle state infrastructure repairs

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When Iowa lawmakers return to Des Moines on January 13, they plan to tackle the state's infrastructure. That means finding ways to fix roads and bridges that are worsening by the day.

"We have to address it," said Iowa Rep. Cindy Winckler, (D) Davenport. "The longer we wait, the larger the price tag becomes."

"It's always an issue," added Iowa Sen. Joe Seng, (D) Davenport. "Illinois is right across the river. If we raise gas taxes, how's it going to affect my senate district?"

While Iowa must find a way to fix its outdated and crumbling roadways, the push for a gas tax hike could be a tough sell in the Hawkeye State.

Rep. Winckler suggests the need to develop a long-term plan. But, she warns, it will take bipartisan support to build the fund during an election year.

"We need to support the infrastucture," she said. "There's no getting around it. We don't want to wait until a tragedy occurs on our roads or in our bridges."

Sen. Seng suggests that an ethanol surcharge could raise $40 million for Iowa roads. And he says there are other possibilities to keep Iowa competitive with neighboring Illinois.

"We're the epitome of making good use out of local taxes and stuff to stimulate the people of Illinois to want Iowa," he said.

Whatever happens, both parties are predicting a short session. That's with the governor's race up for grabs in 2014.

Other hot topics for the legislature include funding for education and mental health programs.  And there's always the challenge of balancing the state's surplus with growing the economy.

"We need to focus on quality and making good decisions, rather than focus on getting our job done quickly and getting out of town," Rep. Winckler said.

Big decisions from Des Moines during a critical legislative session for the state.