Transportation talks resume with new gas tax offer

With a little more than two weeks left in the 2016 session, state lawmakers resumed public negotiations Friday on the transportation funding bill that they left unresolved a year ago.

House Republicans and Senate Democrats remain at odds over a gas tax increase. But negotiators on both sides are making some small movement toward a potential compromise.

Senate Democrats still want new, long term revenue from a gas tax increase to fund needed transportation projects throughout the state. But they’ve reduced their proposal from 16 cents per gallon to 12 cents per gallon, which would be phased in over three years.

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, told members of the transportation bill conference committee that the Senate is sticking with the gas tax.

“It’s never popular at the outset. It takes some courage,” Dibble said. “But once we take that step, we see that people really support those investments.”

The Senate offer also generates revenue by raising license tab fees and the penalties for late payment of registration taxes. Democrats are still pushing for a metro area sales tax increase to pay for transit projects.

Despite the tweaking, the DFL approach remains in fundamental conflict with House Republicans.

GOP lawmakers firmly oppose a gas tax and instead want to use existing sales tax revenues and a big chunk of the budget surplus to pay for roads and bridges.

Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, stressed that their position on the gas tax hasn’t changed.

“A majority of the people are not in favor of a gas tax,” Kelly said. “We don’t believe that’s where we should be going.”

Kelly signaled that the House could be warming to the transit funding component of the DFL plan, if that funding comes with reforms to the Metropolitan Council.

“Many people on both sides of the aisle have concerns of where that money goes, how it’s distributed, what projects are created,” he said.

The conference committee discussed a House bill that requires Metropolitan Council members be local elected officials, serving staggered terms. The bill also establishes a commission to study the council’s powers, duties and structure.

Kelly said House negotiators will present a transportation counter offer next week.

  • Sans Comedy

    An elected met council would accomplish nothing and waste millions on bus routes to far flung cities with no interest in transportation, so you might as well consider this a poison pill

    • Pit Boss

      An elected Met Council is what the Federal Government requires for the State to get continued funding but the Feds keep allowing the funding bill to pass without enforcement of their own law.
      An elected Met Council would then have accountability instead of the free reign they have now when there’s no on to answer too.
      Buses to the “far flung cities” is a lot cheaper than billions on antiquated trains that no one rides except on game day.

  • casey

    How about taking the money on all sate projects that goes to art and fix roads instead??? Stop stealing our money!!!!

    • Pit Boss

      How about repealing the Transportation Amendment that steals money from vehicle registrations, taxes, leases, etc. and allows it to be used for mass transit?

      • casey

        I live in the country. I don’t use mass transit, but I guess I pay for it, your welcome ?

        • Ralphy

          Thank you.
          Did you know there are 59 tax-payer funded transit systems in out-state Minnesota (not including school busing)?
          Did you know that while the state has tools in place to balance per capita spending ($ per student, for example), the Twin Cities metropolitan area per capita pays more in taxes and receives less in taxpayer financed services than out-state Minnesota?
          You are welcome.
          Do you recall it was Tim Pawlenty and the Republicans that “balanced” the state budget by cutting aid to rural Minnesota?
          Do you recall that restoring that aid was one of the main pieces of the Republican platform in the last election?
          The Republicans are betting you won’t.

          • casey

            59 too many taxpayer funded public transit systems. Why do liberals love spending every ones money please just leave us alone! Yesterday I drove by a big public job that was finished and right in front was a huge pile of twisted steel painted with bright colors looked like crap… some people call that art. It had to be 40 feet tall there is your government wasting money!!!! This is done all over the state dumb dumb dumb!!! But the state doesn’t have any money ☹️

    • Ralphy

      Stealing your money? How so? The tax you are referring to was passed on a vote by we the people. Willing to pay for a better Minnesota.

      • casey

        Yup I voted against steeling money, you voted for it I’m guessing.

        • Ralphy

          You call it stealing.
          I call it democracy.