Minnesota House Republicans are making it clear that they won’t support a gas tax increase as part of a transportation funding bill.
With just over a week left in the session, GOP lawmakers urged DFL Gov. Mark Dayton Friday to exclude any gas tax provision from the funding proposal he’s planning to release Monday. Negotiations on a transportation bill have been stalled for a year. They also reminded Dayton that he once characterized the gas tax as dead.
During a news conference, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Zimmerman, stood by his position that road and bridge projects can be funded with existing resources.
“We feel like we’re the ones here representing middle-class Minnesotans and protecting them from government just taking more money from them to pay for things that we already have the money to pay for,” Daudt said. “Ours is what we think is a very logical position, and we think it’s where Minnesotans are at.”
Daudt also reiterated that his caucus opposes additional funding for the Southwest Corridor light rail project between Eden Prairie and downtown Minneapolis. But he added that he’s still willing to talk about it with Democrats.
“If they feel like that’s a priority, they need to convince us, just like they need to convince the public,” he said.
Democrats argued that the GOP plan to use existing sales tax revenue and part of the budget surplus doesn’t add up as a long-term solution.
House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said he sees no effort from Republicans to try to compromise.
“The speaker continues to say he’s not going to draw any lines in the sand, and then he steps up and draws lines in the sand,” Thissen said. “We’re not going to get this session done, bring it to a reasonable conclusion and accomplish the work for the people of Minnesota unless we’re willing to come up with solutions and everybody is willing to compromise.”
Rep. Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said she’s not convinced that House Republicans really want a transportation bill. Hortman said she thinks GOP lawmakers would rather campaign on stopping a gas tax increase.
“We certainly could reach a deal on a bonding bill that’s in the middle, we could do a responsible transportation bill, but then they lose the campaign issue,” Hortman said.