Senate Democrats back off hiking gas tax and sales tax for transportation

The chair of the Transportation Finance Committee in the Minnesota Senate says he is backing off his plan to raise taxes to pay for transportation projects. Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, says he’s no longer proposing a more robust transportation financing package that would spend more on roads, bridges and transit. He says he made his decision after Gov. Dayton indicated he opposed raising the state’s gas tax.

“The bill is going to be pretty much a status quo bill,” Dibble said.

Dibble and Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, had hoped to propose a transportation financing bill that would raise the gas tax for roads and bridges and increase the sales tax in the Twin Cities metropolitan area and dedicate that money for transit projects. Dayton has included a transit tax in his budget. Dibble said it would be difficult to pass a transportation bill unless it included both financing options.

“I have never seen a major transportation bill pass that isn’t balanced. I don’t think we’re going to be able to do so today,” he said.

Dibble will hold a hearing on his bill on Wednesday. He said he made his decision after he met privately with Dayton. Both Dibble and Dayton said they plan to make the case in the coming months for putting more money into transportation projects.

Despite Dibble’s stance, Hornstein, who chairs the House Transportation Finance Committee, isn’t backing off his quest for more revenue. He says he’s still pursuing financing options which include a statewide sales tax for transportation projects and a sales tax on fuel consumption. Hornstein says he’s not ready to propose a status quo transportation funding bill.

“I do not think the house will be doing that bill but it’s certainly one of the options on the table but at this point we’re not leaning in that direction,” Hornstein said.

Hornstein said he plans on introducing his transportation bill on Thursday.