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Linn County Mayors Want a Penny for Roads

CEDAR RAPIDS (CBS 2/FOX 28) - The mayors of Linn County's largest communities are going to ask voters this November to extend a local sales tax in order to pay for street improvements.

In a joint news conference the mayors of Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha, Marion and Robins made their pitch, hoping frustrated drivers will turn into supportive voters. Also joining the effort is the City of Fairfax, whose mayor was unable to attend.

The metro mayors say there's currently a $300 million dollar backlog of badly needed street repairs on the books, and that putting all that cost on property tax owners is unfair.

The plan is to extend the one-penny Local Option Sales Tax in Linn County, which is set to expire next year.

Two times in the last 18-months voters were asked to extend the tax to pay for flood protection along the Cedar River and both times voters rejected the extension.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett tells CBS 2 News the shift now is from flood protection to street repairs - one of the biggest complaints the city gets.

But while presenting a united front in pressing the need for street repairs, only Cedar Rapids is currently committing to spend the entire amount collected on those repairs.

Under current state law the money is collected by the cities, then sent to the Iowa Department of Revenue, which then sends the money back to the various communities based on a population formula. The cities then have the option of deciding how to spend the money.

Corbett says 100-percent of the money collected in Cedar Rapids will go to streets, but Marion"s Mayor says 70-percent would go to streets while 30-percent would go to other city infrastructure needs.

All the mayors hope to get a better turnout, and better chance for success, by putting the proposal on the November general election ballot - rather than paying for a costly special election.

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