Bill battles: Where will the money to fix roads and bridges come from?


The debate isn't about whether Minnesota's roads and bridges need work.

The Democrats and Republicans in the state both agree the potholes and cracks need a lot of fixing. Like hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of fixes. How to pay for it is where the disagreements quickly become evident.

The Democrats – which control the Senate – introduced their plan Monday. The Republicans – which control the House – did so last week.

Here's a brief look at the basics of both parties' transportation spending plans – and where the governor stands.

The DFL's proposal

The Democrats' bill introduced Monday would pull in money from a few different sources.

Maybe the most notable would be a 6.5 percent sales tax on gas at the wholesale level – so not when someone goes to fill up at the pump. The wholesale level is when a large supplier sells the fuel to a station (or other company).

There would also be an increase in how much it costs to register your car with the state every year; a sales tax for the seven-county metro area would cost the average resident about $1.30 per week; and hundreds of million dollars in bonds.

The plan would generate $796 million in new revenue in 2016.

Republicans' proposal

The Republicans in the House proposed their own transportation spending plan last week.

The basics of their plan: $750 million over the next four years, without raising taxes.

The bill calls for using money from the state budget surplus and state highway funds, as well as finding and implementing “certain efficiencies” in MnDOT to cover the cost of needed maintenance work on roads and bridges.

The governor's stance

Gov. Mark Dayton pretty quickly criticized the GOP's plan as "fantasy."

Dayton said it’s “not a solution,” adding it "demonstrates that they don’t understand the problem, and they certainly don’t have any serious interest in finding a real solution,” the Star Tribune says.

As MPR News reports, Dayton has proposed a 6.5 percent sales tax on gasoline at the wholesale level (like the Senate DFLers did) and higher license tab fees to raise the $6 billion over the next 10 years the Minnesota Department of Transportation study said is needed.

Both parties' bills have been sent to the transportation committee in each chamber. For a look at what happens next, click here.

For a completely different perspective, the blog makes a pitch that biking and walking should be considered much more in the final bill than they are right now.

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