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House begins debate on omnibus transportation bill that includes funding increases, fee hikes

A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step, the saying goes.

The House began its journey of taking care of 11,000 miles of state roads and addressing 50 proposed amendments late Tuesday night by beginning debate on the omnibus transportation finance bill. Discussion is to continue Wednesday, with a vote likely.

HF2887 would authorize more than $8.8 billion in transportation spending. This includes $8.05 billion to the Department of Transportation, $582.2 million for the Department of Public Safety and $178.3 million for the Metropolitan Council to repave roads, repair bridges, issue driver’s licenses, enforce traffic laws and operate buses.

This is an infrastructure moment on par with the Eisenhower administration building of the interstate system, said Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls), the bill sponsor. It would provide money to cities with populations less than 5,000 for the first time, increase funding for local, county and state roads, address safety on metro area trains, and manage greenhouse gas emissions. 

The bill would include one-time funding from the General Fund, including:

  • $214.4 million for matching federal discretionary grants through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act;
  • $194.3 million for the Northern Lights Express passenger train to run between Duluth and Minneapolis;
  • $25 million for high priority intersection conversions;
  • $25 million for improvements and redesign around the state capitol area; and
  • $13.6 million for electric vehicle infrastructure.

The bill aims to address longer-term budget issues due to a decline in user fees associated with longer lasting and more energy-efficient vehicles. 

The gas tax, which is workhouse of the system, is forecasted to decline, Hornstein said.

[MORE: Download the spreadsheet]

Registration fees, driver’s license fees and new car sales tax will increase in most cases. There is also a 75-cent delivery fee, proposed as a new revenue source.

Rep. Erin Koegel (DFL-Spring Lake Park) said past efforts to increase or index the gas tax have consistently failed, yet she’s heard every year about unsafe roads and crumbling infrastructure.

“The thing that’s bonkers is doing nothing and thinking it’s going to magically fill potholes,” she said. 

Some of the first amendments offered, unsuccessfully, would have reduced or removed the delivery fee provision.

“We’re not taxing the wealthy here, we’re taxing the low-income at a time we have a $17 billion surplus,” said Rep. Kurt Daudt (R-Crown). “You do not need the money. This state is flush with cash.”


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