Minnesota's ailing transportation system may be one of the few known issues on which Republicans and Democrats agree: It needs to be fixed. The "how" is what's in dispute. After weeks of proposals and disagreements in the state Legislature, Gov. Mark Dayton has stepped in with his own plan.
Dayton is calling for the investment of $6 billion over the next 10 years to fix the state's roads, bridges and public transit systems. The plan would be funded in part by a controversial gas tax and outstrip the size and scope of previous proposals.
A release from the governor's office says the money his plan recommends is sorely needed to restore the state's roads, more than half of which are over 50 years old. According to the document, many of those are just three years away from the end of their useful lives.
“If we continue to avoid these problems, they will only get worse," Dayton said.
A detailed layout of the governor's proposal shows 2,200 miles of state roads would be repaired or replaced, with 40 percent of the revenues raised for the plan going to counties, cities and townships. Public transit would also benefit, as would a number of important freight rail routes under the Corridors of Commerce initiative.
The governor's office says the project would generate 119,000 new jobs, but it's the "revenues" part of the plan that's already meeting with opposition. According to the Star Tribune, Republican Rep. Tim Kelley called the proposed gas tax – which would cost Minnesota drivers an extra 16 cents per gallon at the pump – "intrusive."
Senate Republicans, meanwhile, say the tax would disproportionately affect low-income and middle-class families. The GOP's plan would avoid additional taxes altogether, relying instead on the state's projected surplus to dedicate roughly $800 million to the transportation problem over the next four years.
Nonetheless, Dayton is urging lawmakers to get on board with his proposal, and he's not alone – the release quotes MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle as saying "this problem is real, and it cannot be resolved without a major investment."