By State Representative Bud Nornes
I’m confident we can pass a meaningful transportation bill this legislative session, but it’s going to take some compromising.
The DFL’s proposal was unveiled Feb. 12, the first day of the current session. It will go to the House floor in Week 2 of the session and, from what I’ve seen, it will need some modifications in order to receive widespread support.
The current $8.4 billion proposal includes a 7.5-cent hike in the gas tax. What’s really problematic is a feature including automatic raises for inflation. Indexing the gas tax to inflation puts tax increases on auto-pilot, assuring that drivers will pay more and more at the pump without end.
The bill also lists increases in sales taxes, as well as auto registration and license tab fees.
According to a poll sponsored by KSTP-TV, 59 percent of Minnesotans oppose raising the gas tax; 62 percent oppose raising registration and license tab fees; and 54 percent oppose raising the sales tax. Minnesotans have spoken loud and clear: They do not want the Democrats’ transportation plan in any way, shape or form.
Another complication with this bill is tax dollars spent at the pump in District 10A – and beyond - could be used to fund mass transit. Our existing system turns all gas tax money directly into funding for roads and bridges. That would change since the current proposal opens the door to applying revenue from gas taxes toward funding things like light rail lines in the metro area.
It seems the new bill is a shoot-the-moon proposal, loaded with tax increases. There has been no effort to compromise with Governor Pawlenty to find a course of agreement. The governor vetoed the transportation bill last year, but instead of compromising the DFL added more to the list.
Compromise means give-and-take. When the DFL says compromise, they mean give into our demands. That’s not negotiation in my book.
The transportation bill could easily pass if it’s reasonable. It has to get past the governor’s office and I’m committed to supporting his veto if it comes to that.
Transportation accounts for the largest portion of the governor’s bonding bill proposal - nearly 40 percent or $416 million. Of that, $225 million would be dedicated to local bridges and $30 million to local roads.
That, coupled with a realistic transportation bill, would go a long way.
I will continue to update you throughout the 2008 session. Constituents can sign up for my e-mail updates also by www.house.mn/10A. You also may call 1-800-336-8017.