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All options . . . Our view: User fees should help fund transportation

We’ve been hearing for years Minnesota’s transportation system is woefully underfunded, something DFLers and Republicans seemingly agree upon. They also agree on the important role a quality transportation system plays to both the quality of life and the overall economy in Minnesota.
Where they seemingly cannot – or choose not to – agree is how to solve the dilemma.
To his credit, Gov. Tim Walz espoused increasing the state’s gasoline tax during the fall campaign. He didn’t hide his belief the gas tax needs to be increased.
Gov. Walz offered a potential solution on how to solve the funding gap transportation faces. It may not be the ultimate fix to the state’s transportation funding problem, but an increase in the state’s gas tax should be – must be – on the table for discussion.
Nobody likes tax hikes. Everybody wants good roads. How can anybody say all the options were considered if one option is eliminated from the options simply because of party ideology.
And yes, that includes an increase with the state’s gas tax. If linking the increase to inflation is the key, so be it. Inflation is running at about 3 percent. Linking an increase at a time when prices are low would take some of the bite from the increase if it is one of the selected options to making sure the state’s road system is properly funded for both maintenance and expansion. If it is part of a reformed tax structure, that’s also OK.
Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, recently argued against a gas tax increase on this very page. Sen. Newman contends the advancing electric engine technology will eventually render a gas tax an unreliable revenue source. If so, that’s OK. It may benefit the environment.
Sen. Newman suggested a potential tax on parts to fix vehicles as a revenue source for transportation. He called it a user tax. Is a tax on the gasoline fueling vehicles which transports people, goods and the allows for the fulfillment of services also not a user tax?
Sen. Newman credibly argues the need for expansion of Highway 212 as a needed project for transportation of people and commerce. Elimination of two six mile single-lane segments will benefit McLeod County. MnDOT is currently studying the state of highways 212 and 22 through Glencoe. Whatever the solutions to these issues, there isn’t currently enough money for the solutions in MnDOT’s budget.
The senator supports using money in the general fund for transportation. His suggestion is a potential solution deserving of study and debate. Like a gas tax hike, it, too, should be on the table.
Those who oppose high taxes and tax hikes don’t link taxes with quality of life. A high quality of life, which includes good roads, is not free.
State lawmakers like Sen. Newman and our Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, will have a say in how Minnesota’s budget in general and specifically transportation funding dilemma is solved. In a democracy, do we really benefit from elected officials refusing to consider possible options because of party-based ideology?
Sadly, we see it all too often. That type of political gridlock is amply available in Washington, D.C. And these days, it isn’t much help.

- jm