ST. PAUL – Rep. Joe McDonald, R-Delano, is joining fellow House Republicans in urging lawmakers to work together to finalize a transportation package this session.
"Most everyone agrees our roads and bridges need improvement," McDonald said. "Highway 12 in our region could serve as Exhibit A for roadways that need work to increase safety and enhance traffic flow. Let's work together and get a stable, long-term funding plan in place to fix roads and bridges throughout the state."
The House Republican plan uses taxes Minnesotans are already paying on car parts, auto repairs, vehicle leases, and rental cars and dedicates that revenue through a special Transportation Stability Fund. By adding in a portion of the $900 million budget surplus and bonding, the Republican plan would fix 15,500 lane miles of roads and 330 bridges statewide. McDonald also is a co-author of legislation that would provide $15 million for Highway 12 improvements east of District 29A.
The Senate DFL majority recently unveiled its proposed budget targets, devoting less than 4 percent of the $900 million surplus to transportation. In addition, Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL lawmakers continue advocating for a historic gas tax increase and expansion of light rail in the Twin Cities area.
McDonald said tax dollars would be better used on the state's roads and bridges instead of expanding light-rail trains in the Twin Cities. He indicated the state could repave six lanes of every interstate highway in the state, fund four years of Metro Transit bus operations, raise funding for the new small cities road and bridges program and pay for projects such as $1.5 million for work on Highway 25 between Watertown and Montrose – all for the cost of one light-rail line.
"For all the costs of adding light rail, our roadways are still by far the most popular means of people getting to work, children getting to school, running errands or doing other daily activities," McDonald said. "That is where our transportation dollars provide the greatest benefit and our focus should remain. The House Republican plan shows we have the money if we uphold roads and bridges as the priorities people agree they are."
Dayton and the Senate DFL majority continue to advocate for the largest gas tax increase in state history. The proposal would increase gas by a minimum of 16 cents per gallon, a figure that would rise if the cost of gas increases. A tax at that level also would make Minnesota's the second-highest state gas tax.
"Increasing the gas tax would damage our lowest earners the most," McDonald said. "Seniors on fixed income, students trying to make their way, the unemployed, or people just going through a rough patch all would feel the pinch of unnecessarily raising the gas tax."