Officials want focus on transportation

Across the state, Minnesotans and local leaders are calling for new, dedicated, and sustainable funding – including a modest gas tax increase – to address Minnesota’s critical transportation funding needs.

Just recently, Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski noted that “we’ve seen the corner getting turned on the gas tax. There’s a lot of interest in that because something has to happen.”

This followed the release of a letter from 216 county officials across Minnesota calling for a long-term transportation funding solution for roads, bridges, and transit this session. All but 18 Minnesota counties have already had to raise local taxes in recent years in order to pay for essential transportation improvements. Under the Dayton-Smith transportation proposal, cities and counties would receive an additional $240 million per year in new revenues for transportation.

Officials in both Carver and Hennepin counties are among the chorus calling for finding a sustainable source of transportation funding.

“We need to invest in our roads, bridges and transit system to maintain the economic competitiveness and vitality of the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin. “In Hennepin County alone we have more than $200 million in unfunded road and bridge projects. These projects are critical to commerce and safety. On transit, we are poised to make critical investments that will fill in the missing pieces of the 21st century transit system that we need for the entire region. The metro counties support a sales tax only in the metro area to support this expansion. A sales tax in the metro area is the same approach used by other successful regions around the country to build out their transit systems — Phoenix, Dallas, Salt Lake City, Seattle, to name a few. A metro sales tax would free up General Fund dollars now supporting transit operations and eliminate millions of dollars in state bonding dollars now sought to cover the state’s 10 percent share of these project. This approach is good for the metro area and good for Greater Minnesota.”

“Carver County is a rapidly growing county that provides significant economic benefit to the state and a high quality of life to the people of the Twin Cities region,” said Randy Maluchnik, Carver County Commissioner. “The county has jurisdiction of 270 miles of roadway and 55 bridges and though our comprehensive planning process we have determined $660 million in needed county road and bridge investment by 2040. Our own share of the gas tax and local revenue like the wheelage tax and property tax cannot generate enough funding to maintain and construct an adequate local and state transportation system. I urge the Minnesota legislature to pass a gas tax to increase funding for trunk highways and local roads in our county and the rest of Minnesota.”
This statewide support for a sensible transportation solution isn’t new.

For months, Minnesotans and local leaders across the state have been speaking up – in meetings, newspapers, and letters – to call on their elected officials to represent their interests, and get a transportation plan done this session with new, dedicated, sustainable funding.

Altogether, local officials from 80 Minnesota counties have weighed-in with their support for new, sustainable, dedicated revenues for transportation.

Minnesota county commissioners, mayors, and local leaders from across Minnesota are following the lead of 18 states (and Washington D.C.) that have passed gas tax increases to help resolve transportation funding deficits, similar to Minnesota’s transportation crisis. More than half of those gas tax increases were passed or signed into law by Republicans, including in Idaho, Iowa, Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.

“In the past, when we’ve succeeded, we’ve done so by working together across the state. That’s what we need to do again this year,” said McLaughlin. “We acknowledge that all communities in Minnesota have unique needs relating to roads, bridges and transit (buses and trains). By uniting together as counties and urging the Legislature to pass a sustainable package, we can rebuild our transportation infrastructure so no community is left behind.”