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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Paul Torkelson (R)

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Friday, March 27, 2015

ST. PAUL – State Representative Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) said its clear one of the top priorities for lawmakers this session will be to craft a long-term statewide road and bridge funding plan. His preference is the Road and Bridget Act of 2015 legislation offered by legislative Republicans, which would dedicate $7 billion to infrastructure without raising anyone's taxes.

"It's good news that everyone is talking about transportation needs this session as it increases the odds that we'll get something done," Torkelson said. "It was nice to see the transportation commissioner in New Ulm recently to talk about prioritizing Highway 14. I know he supports raising $9 billion in taxes to make this project happen, but we now have an option that could make the needed improvements without forcing drivers to pay more."

Reallocating funds collected from the existing sales tax on auto parts and rental vehicles, the Motor Vehicle Lease sales tax, and the rental vehicle tax, and placing them in a newly-created Transportation Stability Fund is one of the major components of the Road and Bridge Act. Doing so allows roughly $3 billion to be specifically dedicated over the next ten years for state road and bridge funding, small city transportation projects, Greater Minnesota bus services, suburban county highways, and Metro Area capital improvements.

The Republican bill also uses $1.3 billion in Trunk Highway bonds, $1.2 billion from realigning Minnesota Department of Transportation resources, $1.05 billion in General Obligation bonds, and $228 million in General Funds to improve state infrastructure. As part of this plan, $288 million would also be set aside for local projects such as street improvements for towns that have a population of less than 5,000 residents.

"This proposal shows that taxes don't always have to be raised if you want to secure more revenue for a legislative priority," Torkelson said. "The public asked us to find a way to fund roads and bridges without raising taxes, and I'm pleased we were able to put this comprehensive package together to meet our future needs."