ROADS/BRIDGES: Minn. governor calls for tax funding for roads

Dayton looks to go toe-to-toe with GOP leaders in coming session

News January 02, 2015
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Minnesota is not immune to the pervading issues that are presently impacting all corners of the lower 48—and perhaps may have more of those issues than many other states could claim. It is a state that uses an abundance of salting through its long winter months, which is a direct cause of delamination and other structural deficiencies. It also has ore than 1,000 bridges whose state is of structural concern. Therefore, quick and progressive improvement is what is wanted, and according to Gov. Mark Dayton, the most direct means toward being able to actually pay for such improvement is the institution of a new gas tax in fiscal 2016.
The governor is presently putting the final touches on his proposed 2016-2017 budget, and one aspect of that budget calls for a 6.5% wholesale surtax on gasoline, which would exist alongside, if separate from, the existing 28.5 cents per gallon tax presently in place. This arrangement would drive revenue directly in line with increases in the cost of gasoline.
"Our transportation systems are getting worse," Dayton said. "Anybody who drives to work anywhere in Minnesota knows they're getting worse, and they'll continue to get worse unless we spend more to improve them."
Dayton is facing a Republican majority that, like any Republican majority, is averse to raising taxes, particularly gas taxes, which have a very direct and very noticeable impact on the general driving public. A better alternative, said incoming house speaker Kurt Daudt, is to shift public transit funding over to road and bridge infrastructure projects.
Characterizing the governor’s proposed tax hike as “incredibly unpopular” Daudt remarked, "My gosh, should we spend a billion on a train when we can't fill potholes?"
Dayton fired back, saying, that merely reshuffling present priorities would be “insulting to the intelligence of the people of Minnesota” and not go far enough to address long-term, systemic problems. "This notion that we can pay for what needs to be done for the next decade by 'reordering priorities' is ludicrous," Dayton said.
Such spear-chucking seems to undercut both the governor’s and GOP leaders’ previous overtures toward bipartisan efforts to solve the state’s looming transportation issues.
Of course, as the saying goes, politics is politics is politics. The dance begins next week.

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