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Transportation omnibus clears committee on party-line vote — though new fees a sticking point

The House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee started the session in January with an overview that Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls) said showed the tremendous unmet needs in all transportation sectors of the state.

On Friday, the committee approved a bill that would dedicate billions of dollars to addressing those needs, with money going to all modes of transportation and all parts of Minnesota.

The omnibus transportation finance bill would increase transportation funding through higher fees, such as a 75-cent fee on delivery of taxable merchandise, a dedicated 0.75% metro-area sales tax increase and higher rates on registration fees and vehicle sales tax. It would also dedicate revenue generated from sales taxes on car parts to transportation.

Following adoption of an amended delete-all amendment, HF2887 was approved on a 9-5 party-line vote and referred to the House Taxes Committee.

[MORE: Read about the billView the spreadsheet, revenue summary]

Rep. Larry Kraft (DFL-St. Louis Park) said the bill would address critical infrastructure needs within the broader context of climate change and quoted Hornstein’s introduction of the bill that procrastinating won’t fix problems, just make them more expensive.

We didn’t come to the Legislature to kick the can down the road, especially when the road is crumbling, Kraft said.

Rep. John Petersburg (R-Waseca) likes many things in the bill, such as additional funding for the state patrol and provisions that could lead to a new form of governance for the Metropolitan Council.

“I love the dollars. I’m not crazy about where they come from, but I love the dollars,” he said.

Petersburg said sales taxes and flat fees are regressive and could make a real impact on household income, especially if added to an increased sales tax and fees proposed by other committees. Given the Legislature’s responsibility to take care of infrastructure, he would like lawmakers to consider further untangling of user fees and transportation spending.

Several amendments unsuccessfully offered to the bill would have deleted the fee increases or offered exemptions.

Rep. Bjorn Olson (R-Fairmont) opposes a change to the calculation of tab fees included in the bill, which would cause a significant jump in cost the first few years. Olson argued many people would pay interest on their taxes because they finance new car purchases.

Rep. Erin Koegel (DFL-Spring Lake Park) said lawmakers must find money for transportation. 

“We hate paying user fees, we hate using paying registration fees, we hate paying the gas tax, we hate paying delivery fees,” she said. “We hate paying for the roads we use and that’s not going to cut it anymore.”

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