There was a reason why transportation advocates were relatively quiet last spring when just about everyone else who gets money from the state was decrying the fallout from the economic crisis, the massive state budget shortfall, and then Gov. Pawlenty’s unallotment.
Over the objections of Gov. Pawlenty, the Legislature increased the state’s gas tax in 2008 to pay for maintaining and upgrading the system.
“Transportation one exception to funding crisis,” the headline on Dan Olson’s story read last January.
The increased revenue means the Minnesota Department of Transportation construction budget for this year over last rises by more than half. In two years, spending will more than double from last year’s.
Good times? Apparently not. Today, the Minnesota Department of Transportation released its spending outlook for the next 20 years and found it’s $50 billion short, more than twice the projected gap cited in its previous report, issued five years ago. And that was before the Legislature approved the additional $6.6 billion funding plan.
The problem, aside from inflation, is that people are driving more fuel-efficient cars, using less gasoline.
“If we continue to let our roads deteriorate the cost is going to be exponential,” said Murphy, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, echoing virtually the same argument he applied in the legislative debate over the gas tax. “Instead of building new roads, we’re going to have to tear up all of our old roads and build them again.
One idea: A program for people with fuel-efficient vehicles whereby the government gives them money to buy more gas guzzlers.