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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Paul Torkelson (R)

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Friday, February 20, 2015

ST. PAUL – State Representative Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) said he was troubled by recent comments from Governor Dayton and his transportation commissioner about future road funding, specifically that if the legislature did not pass the governor’s $9 billion tax and fee increase proposal that Highway 14 funding would not occur.

“In hindsight, we shouldn’t have been surprised by these comments considering they were made on the day the non-partisan legislative auditor declared that failures within the governor’s MNsure program far outweighed its achievements,” Torkelson said. “But I am disappointed that Governor Dayton is showing no effort to compromise or find mutually acceptable solutions to our road funding issues.”

Governor Dayton wants to raise taxes and fees on Minnesotans by more than $9 billion over the next ten years in order to spend more on roads, bridges, and light rail.

Torkelson said the governor’s proposed 6.5 percent tax on wholesale gasoline would be most noticeable to Minnesota’s drivers. If approved, motorists could expect to pay a minimum of 17-cents more per gallon at the pump under Governor Dayton’s plan, and Torkelson said there’s no limit as to how high that tax could jump. If the tax is based on $3 per gallon gas, you would pay an additional 20 cents per gallon. At $4, the new tax would rise to 26 cents per gallon, costing you $4.26.

Torkelson, who chairs the Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee, said at this point it’s not clear that a gas tax increase is required.

“Considering our session doesn’t end until mid-May, we need to be flexible and keep all of our options on the table at this point – including bonding,” Torkelson said. “We will address road and bridge funding this biennium and I believe we will do so through a package of sources. But we need to go through the process of evaluation, as we do every two years, before we make our final decisions.”

“I do know that telling the public that there will be no Highway 14 improvements unless drivers are levied with a $9 billion tax and fee increase is inaccurate and a premature judgment,” Torkelson concluded.