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MN Republicans propose $7B in road and bridge repair, with no tax hikes

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Minnesota's roads and bridges need a lot of fixing.

It's seemingly one of the few things Democrats and Republicans can agree on.

But how to pay for fixing them? The parties remain on completely different sides of the highway, with about six lanes of moving traffic between them.

The state's GOP leaders revealed their transportation plan Monday morning. It calls for $7 billion over the next 10 years to pay for the repair to roads and bridges.

But it does so without raising the gas tax.

The comparison

That stands in stark contrast to Gov. Mark Dayton and the DFLers' proposals, which call for 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.)

They also add a slight tax increase to the seven-county Twin Cities metro area, plus higher fees for license tabs.

Here's the breakdown:

So where does the Republicans' plan gets it money?

It gets about $2.35 billion from bonds ($1.3 billion from the trunk highway fund, and $1.05 billion from general obligation bonds), and takes $228 million from the general fund (which the Star Tribune notes is essentially a chunk out of the state's budget surplus).

The big difference however would be the creation of a "Transportation Stability Fund," as it's called.

The GOP's plan calls for taking taxes and fees that are already collected and, rather than putting them into the general fund where they go now, funneling them into certain areas.

So two examples: The existing sales tax on auto parts would go to a Road and Bridge Account, rather than a general fund. And the existing rental vehicle tax would be used for a Small Cities Account.

Click here to read the details.

Political response

As expected, the political sniping began quickly.

House DFL Leader Paul Thissen called the GOP's plan "the same old shifts and gimmicks budgeting," claiming it takes money from schools and hospitals (via the general fund) to pay for road and bridge repairs.

But GOP supporters note their plan doesn't raise taxes. And Republican Sen. John Pederson called the proposed DFL gas tax "antiquated," as better fuel efficiency drives down the revenue from it.

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