Gov. Mark Dayton sharply criticized state House Republicans Friday for putting forward a transportation proposal that Dayton says is living in “la la land.”
“It’s just pure fantasy,” Dayton said of the GOP proposal. “To pretend that this is even the beginning of a responsible solution is just fictitious.”
House Republicans released their transportation plan Thursday. It taps $200 million from the state’s budget surplus and directs the Minnesota Department of Transportation to cut 15 percent of its budget and direct that spending to new transportation projects. The plan would put a total of $750 million into transportation over four years.
Dayton said he’s disappointed House Republicans haven’t put forward a more meaningful proposal.
“That’s not a solution. It’s not a short-term solution. It’s not a long-term solution,” Dayton said. “To me it demonstrates that they don’t understand the problem, and they don’t have any serious interest in finding a solution.”
Dayton said House Republicans should say whether they want to adequately address the problems that he says is plaguing the state’s transportation system. Dayton is citing a MNDoT study that says the state needs $6 billion to maintain highways and bridges and build new projects over the next 10 years.
Dayton is pushing for a sales tax increase of 6.5 percent on the wholesale cost of gasoline and higher licenses tab fees to fund road and bridge projects as well as a half cent sales tax increase in the metro area for transit projects. But he says his plan may not raise enough money if gas prices stay low.
“If it stays at $2.25 a gallon for the next couple of years, then that revenue is going to be less,” Dayton said. “If we find in two years that the price is still there, we’ll have a lot of other benefits from that, and we’ll have to deal with our revenue projection. And we’ll have a lot more room to do so.”
Dayton said he’s willing to discuss whether the transportation funding gap totals $6 billion or whether it’s smaller. But he said he wants to see data to back up projections.
Dayton is making it clear that transportation is going to be one his top issues this session. On Wednesday night, he urged business leaders to back a plan that adequately addresses transportation funding.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, suggested on Wednesday that he’d have a tough time being convinced that a new gas tax is needed.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said the Senate will spend more money on transportation. Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said he plans to release his proposal next week.
We’ll update this blog post if/when House Republicans react to Dayton’s criticism.
Daudt reacted to Dayton’s comments with this statement. It said nothing about their stance on transportation.
“Minnesotans elected a divided government with the expectation that we’d work together to move our state forward. I’m disappointed in Governor Dayton’s tone today, but I’m going to keep working on him. I will win him over because I believe we can work together to solve the problems Minnesotans care about.”