Not long ago, the Senate majority unveiled its proposed budget targets, and I was surprised to learn that it devoted less than four percent of our projected $900 million surplus to transportation.
As vice-chairman of the House Transportation Committee, and member of the transportation conference committee that is tasked with finding a long-term transportation funding solution compromise this year, I believe this is the wrong approach.
At some point, the House, Senate and Governor Dayton have all said transportation is a top priority. Yet when it comes to funding this preference, the Senate and governor use next to nothing from our budget surplus. The only way they would fund their ‘top priority’ would be through massive and unnecessary tax increases. As for the surplus? They would choose to spend that on other government programs that are much less of a priority.
This simply does not make sense to me.
The Republican solution uses taxes Minnesotans are already paying on car parts, auto repairs, vehicle leases, and rental cars and dedicates that revenue through a special fund called the 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.
On the other side, Governor Dayton and the Senate majority continue to push the largest gas tax increase in Minnesota’s history. The proposal forces drivers to pay a minimum of 16-cents per gallon more at the pump - a figure that would only rise as the price of gasoline increases - and would inevitably create the second highest state gas tax. Furthermore, technology advancements and increases in fuel efficiency mean gas tax revenues will continue to decline in the near future and become a less reliable funding source.
Residents in our area want to see a long-term transportation plan that does not force them into paying more at the pump. One of the ways we can do this is by utilizing a share of our budget surplus on improving our roads and bridges – something all sides agree is truly a legislative priority.