Lawmakers may consider bump at pump for road revenue

7:46 PM, Jan 14, 2013   |    comments
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - While the debate over taxing and spending is just beginning at the State Capitol, there is some posturing going on behind the scenes.

Lawmakers on transportation committees are looking for ways to raise revenue for road projects and an increase in the gas tax might be one avenue they'll travel down.

"Just a word of caution to those people who think we're going to run all Willy-nilly, the Governor's already said the gas tax (is something) he's not really enthusiastic about," Republican Representative and Transportation Committee Member Mike Beard of Shakopee said.

Senator Scott Dibble of Minneapolis, who chairs the Transportation Committee on the Senate side, echoed those sentiments.

"He (Gov. Mark Dayton) has rightly indicated that it's really not popular politically. I totally understand that," the Senator said.

Dibble says it'll likely be brought up in committee, at some point during the session.

"This is just really a continuation of that conversation that we've been in for really 20 years now," he explained.

The state's gas tax had not been changed in 20 years before lawmakers tweaked it in 2008. Since then, what Minnesota motorists pay at the pump has been going up around a half a cent per year. This year marks the end of the cycle of annual surcharge increases unless lawmakers approve another hike.

"The unique thing about our gas tax is that it has to be spent on roads and bridges and that's why, if I have to raise a tax, that's the only one I'd be comfortable with," Rep. Beard said. "One of my concerns is that we don't shock the system with like a dime all at once. So a penny here, two cents next year, things like that (would be looked at)," Beard added.

Sen. Dibble says taxpayers would notice the potential increase and that makes it an extremely important issue.

"People really do need to be persuaded that this is a good investment that will improve their lives and improve our state's life altogether, so I totally get the skepticism. That's why we have a legislative process," he concluded.

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