Democrats called it a wonderful spending plan, while Republicans say it spends too much and doesn’t reform anything.
This week, PoliGraph checked claims from both sides of the aisle about some of Dayton’s spending priorities.
Starting with transportation, the state transportation commissioner said bad roads are destroying our vehicles.
“There’s as much car damage and truck damage that equals approximately $1.2 billion a year – that’s $396 per motorist,” – MNDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle during a press conference to Dayton’s $10 billion transportation funding plan.
The data Zelle is talking about can be traced back to TRIP, a transportation research non-profit funded by unions, engineers, insurance companies and an array of other groups with a stake in U.S. road conditions.
Rocky Moretti, the group’s director of policy and research said that their information comes from an array of government sources and AAA.
“As pavement conditions worsen, vehicles operate less efficiently because of the rougher driving surfaces, which increase operating costs in four areas,” Moretti wrote in an email. The most recent numbers break down as follows:
- Accelerated depreciation: $184
- Increased maintenance: $101
- Increased fuel consumption: $64
- Increased tire wear: $20.
That adds up to about $369 a year – which is slightly less than the $396 Zelle cited, but Moretti said those numbers may be slightly out of date.
Another relatively recent report pegs individual costs at about $347 a year per driver.
So while Zelle’s numbers are slightly off, and a large chunk of the consumer cost is from accelerated depreciation – not a repair cost but a cost to consumers nevertheless – his claim is mostly accurate.
On spending, a Republican House leader said Gov. Dayton is doing too much of it.
“The budget he’s putting forward today increases spending $1,244 per every man, woman and child. That’s $5,000 for a family of four – an all funds budget of more than $7 billion dollar increase.” – GOP House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin at a press conference responding to Dayton’s $42 billion budget.
Peppin, who is a Republican from Rogers, is among the House’s staunchest opponents of big government. Her claim is meant to illustrate how Dayton’s spending plan breaks down per capita, not how much it will literally cost each person living in Minnesota.
Peppin’s math is right, but she’s basing it off of the state’s overall budget – not the general fund budget, which Dayton detailed earlier this week and is typically what we hear about most during the biannual budget debate because it relies on regular appropriations.
The “all funds” budget includes dedicated funding like the money raised by hunting and fishing licenses and the legacy funding from the recent sales tax increase in the state constitution.
It also includes the Trunk Highway Fund, where revenue from the gas tax and tab fees is collected and distributed to transportation projects. Dayton’s transportation plan includes a significant tax increase for transportation.
Funds like this are typically on auto-pilot unless the Legislature decides to alter them. But the Legislature still approves those funds every budget cycle, and when Dayton signs the bill, it includes these funds, too.
A spokesman for the state’s finance department Minnesota Management and Budget says Peppin’s statement does not factor in the complexity of the state budget, especially when she mixes other funds with the general fund.
“We would not use this methodology to describe the state budget,” said MMB spokesman John Pollard. “It does not factor in natural growth, inflation, population increases, or additional federal funds.”
Pollard also notes that some people’s taxes will fall under Dayton’s proposal.
But it was clear Peppin was calculating an average. And that gives her enough leeway for this test to find her claim is correct.