SAINT PAUL, MINN- Rep. Brian Johnson (R-Cambridge) 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.
“The governor, the Senate DFL majority and the House Republican majority have all stated that transportation is a top priority this session, so we should be focusing on an agreement that makes a significant investment in road and bridge improvements across the state," said Rep. Johnson.
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.
"Ninety-eight percent of Minnesotans rely on our roads and bridges every day, and for the amount of money that Democrats have proposed spending on one train in Minneapolis, we could repave six lanes on every interstate in Minnesota, fund four years of Metro Transit bus operations, invest in the new small cities road and bridge funding program and fund local projects across the state like improving the eight mile stretch of Interstate 35 from Harris to the Chisago-Pine County line," added Rep. Johnson.
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.
“Continuing to push for a regressive gas tax increase that would skyrocket our gas tax to the second highest in the nation is unnecessary when we have a significant surplus. It would be especially costly for people in my district who can commute more than one hundred miles a day for work," concluded Rep. Johnson.
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.