Dayton Seeks $11 Billion For Transportation

Dayton, Zelle

Gov. Mark Dayton wants Minnesota to spend about $11 billion more in the next decade to improve the state’s roads and bridges and boost transit.

The governor on Monday said Minnesotans would pay 16 cents or more per gallon in a new tax on gasoline (on top of the 28.5 cents the state already collects). With all the revenue he proposes raising, those in greater Minnesota would pay about $15 a month for his plan while in the Twin Cities the cost would be closer to $24 monthly, the Dayton administration reported.

“It takes some political courage” to approve tax increases, he said, which in this case would not only add a new gas tax but also but also raise vehicle license fees, charge $10 more for car registrations and increase a Twin Cities sales tax. He also pledges to find $600 million from the Minnesota Department of Transportation doing things more efficiently.

“Inadequate transportation clogs our lives with worse traffic congestion, longer commutes, more dangerous travel conditions,” Dayton said in announcing his plan. “These deficiencies restrict our future economic growth and detract from our quality of life.”

However, the Republican chairman of the House transportation committee said that his committee will need time to assess the real transportation needs, which may not be completed until next year.

“I look forward to a long-term solution over the next two years,” Rep. Tim Kelly of Red Wing said.

Kelly already has laid out what he calls a temporary fix, which Republicans want until a long-term funding bill can be prepared. He said that he does not think the state needs to raise taxes as Dayton proposes.

While Kelly was gentle in his criticism of Dayton, Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, was less so.

“Gov. Dayton is showing once again he is either unwilling or unable to set priorities in the state budget, and instead resorts to massive new taxes on lower and middle class Minnesotans,” Hann said. “The legislature should take the time to adequately define our transportation needs and then come up with solutions that actually address it, without raising taxes.”

Sen. John Pederson, R-St. Cloud, said the Dayton tax-increase plan comes “the minute working families begin to see some relief from high gas prices.”

The major part of the Dayton increase comes in a wholesale tax on gasoline. While it is different from the existing per-gallon tax, it would be felt much the same at the pump.

The tax would be 16 cents a gallon when wholesale prices are $2.50 a gallon or less. The wholesale price now is about $1.30.

If wholesale prices go higher than $2.50, so would the tax.

Money from the new taxes would be divided over 10 years among:

— $5.4 billion for state roads and bridges.

— $600 million from working more efficiently.

— $2.4 billion for cities, counties and townships.

— $2.8 billion for Twin Cities transit (from a half percent sales tax increase).

— $120 million for greater Minnesota transit (from state’s general fund).

— $75 million for bike and pedestrian paths and the Safe Routes to Schools program.

Transportation officials did not specify specific projects that would be funded by the higher taxes. They produced a series of maps that showed projects that could receive money, but the transportation department has yet to make firm decisions on what projects can be built.

Dayton’s plan depends on federal funds, which have yet to be appropriated. Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle said that if Congress does not come through with the expected money, the governor’s plan would need to be scaled back.