Minnesota unveils 10-yr $7 bln transportation plan with no tax hike

Minnesota Republican leaders are calling for a $7 billion plan to repair roads and bridges over the next 10 years that does not rely on a gas tax increase.

The proposal prioritizes infrastructure improvements through repairing roads in Minnesota communities and fixing highways for commuters and commerce. Over 10 years the plan calls for repairing or replacing 15,500 lane miles for all roads and 330 bridges statewide.

The plan, announced Monday, would create a new Transportation Stability Fund that would collect existing proceeds from dedicated tax revenues and deposit them into accounts for a dedicated purpose. The road and bridge account would be funded with revenue from the existing sales tax on auto parts, and the suburban county highway account would receive revenue from 50 percent of the existing motor vehicle lease sales tax.

The state would also sell $1.3 billion in trunk highway system bonds, $1.05 billion in general obligation bonds and would get $1.2 billion from realigning Minnesota Department of Transportation resources, among other funding sources.

One transportation group said the House plan only provides a two-year funding commitment and would require future legislatures to commit to the promises made in this funding plan.

“We wouldn’t ask businesses and families to mortgage their homes and factories using credit cards and IOUs with no clear way of ever paying the bills; neither should the legislature,” Move MN, a statewide coalition of more than 200 businesses, organizations and local governments concerned with transportation, said

A 10-year plan to fix transportation has to require sustainable, dedicated funding in addition to general fund and one-time money, the group added.

The Republican plan is at odds with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s $11 billion transportation plan that raises new dedicated revenues for roads and bridges. New funding for the 10-year plan would come from a 6.5 percent gross receipts tax on gasoline and an increase in vehicle and car registration fees. It closely resembles a transportation funding package introduced by the Minnesota Senate Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.

A Star Tribune Minnesota Poll taken March 16-18 showed 52 percent of adults oppose a gas tax increase, while 45 percent support it.