The legislature is on Easter Break this week, meaning there will be no committee meetings or floor sessions. I'm looking forward to being back home for the week to talk with constituents and enjoy some time away from Saint Paul.
As you may have heard, Republicans released our transportation proposal last week. I'm proud to have worked in my capacity as Vice Chair of the Transportation Committee on our plan, which invests more than $7 billion in roads and bridges without raising taxes. I hope you'll take a few moments to read my newspaper column with more details on the plan that I sent to our local papers last week. I have copied it below for your convenience.
John Petersburg State Representative, District 24A
A Transportation Plan that Listens to Minnesotans Rep. John Petersburg, District 24A
This week, Republicans introduced the Road and Bridge Act of 2015, a comprehensive, long-term transportation plan that will invest in roads and bridges through better prioritizing of our resources. All this is accomplished without reducing the disposable income of families just as they are recovering from the recession.
As legislators have traveled across the state, we've heard a consistent message from Minnesotans: fix our roads and bridges, but find a way to do it without raising taxes. With a nearly $39 billion budget, and a budget surplus of more than $1.8 billion dollars, Minnesotans agree that we can invest in the funds necessary for roads and bridges if we truly make it a priority. I'm proud to have worked in my capacity as Vice Chair of the Transportation Committee on a plan that I think most Minnesotans will agree is the best approach to funding our long-term transportation needs.
Instead of raising the gas tax, which would hit hardest those of us in Greater Minnesota, our plan uses a portion of the budget surplus, bonding, and an existing sales tax revenue from things like car rentals, auto parts, and vehicle leases to fund more than $7 billion in new funding for roads and bridges. Our plan will repair or replace more than 15,500 lane miles of roads, and repair or replace 330 bridges across the state.
Our plan does use general fund money, a point that's likely to be opposed by Governor Dayton and Senate Democrats who want to instead raise the gas tax by a minimum of 16 cents per gallon to fund their transportation plan. It's important to remember that 33 other states already use general fund money to fund transportation, and that Minnesota is one of just three states in the top ten states for total public road miles that doesn't use general fund money.
As I've talked to constituents in our community and across the state, there seems to be very little support for an increase in the gas tax when other options are available. Many families have expressed relief that gas prices have finally returned to lower levels, leaving more money that they can spend on the necessities and priorities of their own family. Why, at a time when families are feeling this relief, would we institute a $8.65 billion tax increase by raising the price of gasoline, which would bring Minnesota's gas tax to among the top five in the nation?
We can make these critical investments in our roads and bridges if we truly prioritize our spending, and actually listen to what Minnesotans are saying. Minnesotans are saying they want to fix our roads and bridges, and do it without raising taxes. If you support that approach, please contact your legislators and the Governor and urge them to support our approach as well.