ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Voters may get to decide whether to dedicate some existing sales tax revenue to roads and bridges.
The Minnesota House Thursday passed a bill that would take the sales tax collected on auto repairs and auto parts and put it to use exclusively for transportation projects.
If the same proposed amendment passes the Senate, the question would go on the November General Election ballot. Governors don't have the power to block proposed constitutional amendments.
The state already shifts part of automotive-related sales tax proceeds to transportation, but a constitutional amendment would make that permanent and raise the dollar amounts involved.
According to a Minnesota Dept. of Revenue research summary the amendment would move $168 million each year that's currently going to the General Fund into the special highway fund.
Republicans are fundamentally opposed to increase fuel taxes, so this is views as a mechanism to increase spending on transportation without raising any new revenue.
During the floor debate on the bill Democrats argued the ballot question should also point out that the money is currently spent on education, nursing homes, veterans services, home health aids to persons with disabilities and other essential government services.
GOP lawmakers countered that the state has a budget surplus, so it shouldn't be viewed as taking from one area of government and sending it to another.
The Democrats also took issue with the idea that their Republican counterparts would make the campaign claim that they made a major investment in roads, even though that revenue generated by the ballot issue falls well short of the filling the projected $6 billion transportation funding gap over the next 10 years.