At the end of the month Minnesota will receive an updated economic forecast, which is expected to highlight another significant budget surplus. With this in mind, State Representative John Petersburg (R-Waseca) said it remains critical that lawmakers approve a long-term transportation plan that would invest $7 billion in state roads and bridges over the next ten years without raising gas taxes.
"The Minnesota House stepped up to the plate last session and found a way to solve our road and bridge needs, at the requested level of the Department's TFAC report, without forcing a costly tax increase on Minnesota's drivers," Petersburg said. "It's a reliable, common sense answer that will address our transportation issues for the next ten years."
Petersburg, who is part of the House/Senate conference committee that has been tasked with finding a compromise solution for Minnesota's long-term transportation needs, said discussions will resume immediately when the 2016 session begins.
The House proposal would redirect some already-collected transportation-related sales taxes and use some bonding and general fund proceeds to make the $7 billion road and bridge investment. This includes nearly $6 billion for state, county, and municipal roads over ten years, $60 million for township road and bridge needs, and $282 million for small cities that have populations less than 5,000 residents to assist with street repair projects.
Petersburg said the proposal brought forward by Democrats would have amounted to the highest gasoline tax increase in state history. Along with being forced to pay a minimum of 16-cents per gallon more at the pump – and that figure would only rise as the price of gasoline increases – Minnesota's drivers also would have paid increased registration fees and transit taxes, costing them hundreds of additional dollars every year.
"We understand that we already have the resources available to make the long overdue investment in road and bridge infrastructure," Petersburg said. "It's my hope that the Democrats won't become a roadblock to progress over their insistence on yet another tax increase in the form of a gas tax or another Twin Cities train."
The 2016 session is set to begin on March 08, 2016.