House GOP thinks transportation funds are Monopoly money

Courtesy of MnDOT
Fixing roads and bridges cost money. Republicans and Democrats tend to agree on that.

There is a very strong annoying truth about Minnesota transportation. Fixing roads and bridges cost money. Republicans and Democrats tend to agree on that, but where the money comes from has a divergence from reality. At least with one of the parties.

Governor Dayton proposed a very reasonable and overdue transportation package yesterday. It had a huge spending component — which we need — and it had a method to pay for it — increased user taxes (I could use the word fees, but we all know it is the same thing, even when Gov. Pawlenty tries to draw a distinction). 

The taxes, of course, drew the ire of the Republican controlled House. They wailed and moaned about the “burden” on Minnesota taxpayers. How it was all so unnecessary. Now, they were not denying the need for the transportation spending — and they didn’t even argue much about the spending figures being totally off base. Of course, they themselves couldn’t possibly go along with such exorbitant spending and taxes. No, no, uh, uh.

Dayton proposed raising taxes on wholesale gas to pay for the roads and bridges that the cars buying that gas would have to use. He also proposed hiking car license fees. Again, fees on cars that use the roads. And he also proposed a hike in the metro sales tax for transit. Metro taxes for metro use. Not greater Minnesota. Fair, fair, and fair.

What the House Republicans have offered is vastly different. They have a multi-year proposal that is basically one time money taken from other sources, and the surplus (which really isn’t even enough to cover one year’s worth of need) and patch it. Like a patch on a flat tire. It doesn’t fix anything, it just gets you back to where you started.

Its funny, but transportation needs don’t go backwards. The older roads and bridges get, the more fixing they need and the more expensive it gets to do it. You can “patch” it all, but the need is still there. It may cost more to do it right, but it will also last longer and be less of a burden to future budgets. And because the needs are ongoing, you also need stable revenue streams. A flow of user taxes that continue without year after year revisits. A budgetary source that allows MNDOT to plan and make the necessary expenditures.

And as for transit — Dayton is willing to concede that transit is more of a metro issue than for outstate Minnesota. And he has always expected the seven county metro to pay its own way when it comes to the revenues for transit. But House Republicans want to play the versus game. It is greater Minnesota vs. the Metro. Don’t let the Metro get transit revenue — give all of it to roads and bridges in outstate Minnesota, where “our” constituents live.

The issue isn’t a versus problem. It is a community problem. We need to do both — to walk and chew gum — to fix and build. That is why Dayton’s proposal is correct. He looks at the needs of the state as a whole — he doesn’t look for trade-offs.

House Republicans continue this farcical meme that “greater Minnesota” is being shortchanged by the Democrats. Even though it is Republicans that block and cut LGA, block health care for rural hospitals, block broadband upgrades, and allow property taxes to increases for farmers and small businesses — and yes, they have blocked past attempts to fix roads and bridges all over the state.

We need to make a dramatic move in transportation. For greater Minnesota, for suburban Minnesota, for the Metro — for everyone in this state. Dayton has proposed a comprehensive plan. And if we want to keep this great state economy going, then we need to make sure the means to transport those goods and services is capable of handling the job.

I’m not sure what kind of future the House Republicans are looking at. Sometimes I think they never look more than one political cycle ahead. It is all about winning the next election — and not really about greater Minnesota or anyone else in this state.

Transportation costs money. The Dayton proposal pays for it. Make it happen.

This post was written by Dave Mindeman and originally published on mnpACT! Progressive Political Blog. Follow Dave on Twitter: @newtbuster.

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Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by David Greene on 01/27/2015 - 11:58 am.

    Dayton is wrong on transit

    If Dayton and the author truly believe transit is a metro-only issue they are sorely mistaken. Greater MN is getting older and gaining more immigrant families that typically can afford one car at best. Yet we still have several counties with no transit service whatsoever and service in economic centers like St. Cloud is ridiculously inadequate (no Sunday service, no service after 5pm, etc.).

    The Senate’s sales tax proposal is much better than Dayton’s. We are seriously behind in our transit investment.

    • Submitted by Hugh Gitlin on 01/28/2015 - 09:26 am.

      There are Greater Minnesota Transit Taxes

      Counties can ask the legislature for permission to impose sales taxes. The following Greater Minnesota counties have sales & use tax for transit purposes: Becker, Beltrami, Douglas, Fillmore, Olmsted, Rice, Todd & Wadena.

  2. Submitted by John Ellenbecker on 01/27/2015 - 03:35 pm.

    Greater efficiency?

    Prior to Gov. Dayton taking office, Republicans controlled the administration for 16 of 20 years. They had ample time under Governors Carlson and Palwenty to wring every single efficiency that they could find out of MnDot and each and every other administrative department that they could find. Their efforts didn’t produce much, if any, additional revenue. Instead they found that their inefficient government is a myth. Even worse, when Gov. Pawlenty imposed a hiring freeze on his departments, he was so efficient that he ended up with MORE employees at the end of the freeze than he had when he imposed the freeze. Time for reality to set in – maintaining and expanding roads and bridges costs money – real money – and that means a tax increase somewhere.

    • Submitted by Steve Kantner on 01/27/2015 - 04:04 pm.

      Not Exactly True

      Most of the Saint Cloud bus routes do indeed run into the evening and have Sunday service.

      • Submitted by John Ellenbecker on 01/27/2015 - 08:13 pm.


        Which is relevant to what?

      • Submitted by David Greene on 01/27/2015 - 09:52 pm.

        St. Cloud

        I think this was directed to me. “Most” is not “all.” Besides, it’s not just St. Cloud that has problems. There are transit deficiencies all across the state. Transit is hardly a metro-only issue. Talk to struggling families in Greater MN.

  3. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/31/2015 - 09:41 am.

    Not even…

    ” It doesn’t fix anything, it just gets you back to where you started.”

    The Republican plan doesn’t even get us back to where we started. Listen, we have the 4th largest road system in the country, we have more road per capita than Florida which has four times our population. We have enough roads and bridges. AND all those roads and bridges have been disintegrating under republican leadership. So don’t tell us now that roads and bridges are the republican priority… dismantling government is the republican priority. If rural voters think they’re going to get more from republican legislators than they would from democrats… they haven’t been paying attention.

    Republican’s like to talk about innovation but they don’t have a truly innovative bone in their bodies. There’s absolutely nothing innovative about any of these recycled plans based on decades old no new tax pledges and small government rhetoric.

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