St. Paul- Rep. Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake) is joining fellow House Republicans in urging lawmakers to work together to finalize a transportation package this session. Late last week, the Senate DFL majority unveiled their proposed budget targets, devoting less than 4 percent of the $900 million surplus to transportation. In addition, Governor Dayton and DFL lawmakers continue to push a regressive gas tax increase and costly light rail.
“Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate, as well as Governor Dayton, have said that we need to pass a comprehensive transportation bill this session. If we concentrate on what we agree is most important, which is building roads and bridges, we won't need a gas tax increase to accomplish that." said Dettmer.
Earlier this week, U.S. Senator Al Franken and Governor Dayton’s Metropolitan Council Chair urged legislators to spend state funds on Southwest Light Rail (SWLRT) this session. The Metropolitan Council Transportation Committee estimates the total cost of the SWLRT Green Line extension has grown by nearly 50 percent, with initial estimates at $1.2 billion while recent reports state a new cost of $1.77 billion. Federal and local tax dollars are expected to fund part of the overall cost of the project if it moves forward.
“This whole discussion comes down to priorities. Democrats want to fund light rail in the metro, but for what they propose to spend on one train in Minneapolis, we could repave six lanes on every interstate in Minnesota, fund four years of Metro Transit bus operations, and make a huge investment in roads and bridges in small communities throughout the state,” said Dettmer.
Governor Dayton and the Senate DFL majority continue to push the largest gas tax increase in state 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. If a 16 cent per gallon tax is added on top of Minnesota’s gas tax today, our state would move to 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 and less reliable funding source.
“I can tell you that Republicans in the House are focused on investing in the infrastructure that 98% of Minnesotans use every day when going to work, running to the grocery store, and picking up their kids from school: roads and bridges. House and Senate Democrats, and Governor Dayton, need to prioritize what benefits all Minnesotans most, instead of just a few communities in the Metro," concluded Dettmer.
The Republican plan 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.