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Dayton uses debate to propose increasing gas tax

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

In the second debate of the 2014 governor’s race, Mark Dayton made news with his very first question, suggesting for the first time that he would seek an increase in the gasoline sales tax to fund transportation.

“I would make a specific proposal, including a sales tax on gasoline that will raise close to the $6.5 billion that we’re short in transportation funding over the next ten years,” Dayton said Wednesday night in Moorhead.  

Neither GOP candidate Jeff Johnson nor Independence Party candidate Hannah Nicollet supported that idea, and it gave Johnson the chance to try out a testier tone that he used often in the 90-minute debate.  

“We had the biggest tax increase in state history and we’re saying we don’t have enough money to fill potholes,” Johnson said.  “That’s nuts. To suggest that we gotta raise taxes again is wrong.”

Dayton spent much of the debate touting his administration’s record on transportation funding, as well as education, job creation and support for greater Minnesota.  He had to.  In responses to several questions, he was tag-teamed by Johnson and Nicollet, as in this exchange on how to keep college graduates in Minnesota:

Nicollet: “What we have in Minnesota is an opportunity problem. We have 49 percent of our individuals who are underemployed, making less than they expected and over-qualified for the positions that they have.” 

Dayton: “We have economic growth occurring all over the state. I got to respond to these fictions about half the people in Minnesota are underemployed.  It’s nonsense.”

Johnson: “The number you say is false comes from your administration. The number is accurate.  To say it’s no big deal, I think it’s out of touch.”

Johnson used another theme — responsibility, or lack thereof — in responding to a question on the financing of the new Vikings stadium. He called it “a debacle” and said Dayton didn’t fully know what was in the bill he signed. “Minnesotans deserve a governor who owns his decisions and is engaged,” he said.

Dayton fired back. “Tell the 7,500 people who are working on this project … that this project is a debacle,” he said.    

The debate, sponsored by the Forum News Service, had a focus on regional issues like flood control (all three agreed the state needed to work on a solution with North Dakota) and a proposed oil pipeline. Dayton said environmental concerns need to be a priority for the project; Johnson and Nicollet say they support it.

But while the candidates — especially Dayton and Johnson — used the time to highlight their differences and critique opposing positions and policies, the overall tone once again remained cordial. The next debate is October 14 in Duluth.

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Comments (23)

  1. Submitted by E Gamauf on 10/09/2014 - 09:49 am.

    If Republicans believe in User FEES

    I don’t know if the gas tax is an answer, or the best answer.

    However, if we analyze & apply the reasoning forwarded by Pawlenty & the GOP in general:

    Taxes were conveniently renamed as FEES during Pawlenty. For the sake of talking points.
    Even when FEES impacted everyone, making them functionally the same as TAXES.

    The argument was always presented: what pays for stuff should come directly from activities or structures themselves.

    Therefore the schools should be paid for by SCHOOL revenues, people who have kids currently in school. Which was not the mindset of Governor Carlson, who was an advocate for schools & Universities despite his eventually running again as a Republican.

    Further, that typical Republican mindset & talking point says that roads should be paid for by ROAD-related fees, be that toll booths, or gas taxes. (Never mind its not feasible to keep the infrastructure moving in Minnesota with toll booths, let alone bridge tolls!!! Imagine getting to work in the winter if you had to stop & pay bridge tolls?)

    This argument means that we could never do anything that didn’t already have a self-sustaining payment structure already in place – there would never be mass transit, or bridge repairs unless it already had its own profit loop. Would we be building stadia?

    Thus, irrespective of what other taxes there are & go to pay for – fundamentally & ideologically gas taxes should be quite acceptable to what Republicans have claimed to support!

    Why isn’t Johnson jumping on this train?
    Uh, transit bus.

    • Submitted by Scott Wood on 10/09/2014 - 11:48 am.

      Stopping for tolls

      Modern toll systems collect payment electronically. They don’t require vehicles to stop.

      • Submitted by E Gamauf on 10/09/2014 - 01:04 pm.

        Yes, I know abt HOV lanes

        HOV lanes. Which trends to be sparsely used most of the day around here.
        Nonetheless, the core comments stand.

        The overarching point is that the GOP seems to not want to tax gas at all.
        Which flies in the face of past positions & ideology.

        At some point, we must reallocate how things are paid for & how much is too much tax, sales or otherwise, but this may not be the time. It makes sense to tax gas toward infrastructure, even if I am not happy about it.

        The amount is still at issue.

        Nevertheless, the roads & bridges need to be patched up.
        We can’t wait for a 2nd collapse before we move forward on it.

        • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 10/09/2014 - 09:15 pm.


          “Nevertheless, the roads & bridges need to be patched up.
          We can’t wait for a 2nd collapse before we move forward on it.”

          The present State administration has had four years and not significantly addressed the problem. Time for hope and change!

      • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/10/2014 - 06:43 am.

        Toll Systems

        Electronic payment systems only work if you have the pass, which a lot of vehicles will not. Even if you have one you still have to slow down so you make it through the toll booth without hitting it or someone else.

  2. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/09/2014 - 09:32 am.

    Gas Tax

    Wait, didn’t Dayton reject a gas tax a couple of years ago? Increasing the gas tax may not be the sole answer to the shortfall in our road budget, but it can certainly go a long way towards making it whole. At the very least it should be indexed to inflation.

    $6.5 billion more for roads over the next ten years seems kind of light. it was my understanding that we’re roughly $1 billion a year short in funds to maintain our current infrastructure. And that doesn’t include adding any new lanes.

    Personally, I strongly support a gas tax increase to get our roads in shape, while at the same time bumping up the metro-wide transportation tax so we can get rolling on more light rail and bus rapid transit. We’re far behind other cities and need to get caught up in those areas.

  3. Submitted by Mike Worcester on 10/09/2014 - 11:53 am.

    The Reality of the Numbers

    1. Folks are driving less.
    2. They are also driving more fuel efficient vehicles. (Two years ago I upgraded to one that gets on average 10 mpg better than its predecessor.).
    3. Construction / maintenance costs keep going up.
    This is the reality faced by those who try to maintain our transportation infrastructure

    A five year time frame where the gas tax/user fee goes up 2 pennies per annum would help and likely not even be noticed by drivers who face near daily whiplashes in prices at the pump.

  4. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 10/09/2014 - 01:12 pm.

    taxing the poor?

    I thought Dayton just taxed the rich?

    Where are all the Liberals who are outraged that Dayton has increased taxes on the poor and now wants to do it again?

    • Submitted by Kurt Nelson on 10/09/2014 - 04:01 pm.


      The only poor effected by any potential gas tax are those with cars, the rest not so much. Good try at lumping them all together though – it shows spirit.

      • Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 10/09/2014 - 07:03 pm.

        WOW! such logic!

        It sounds to me you are so excited about raising taxes that you don’t care who pays, as long as the poor with cars and the middle class with cars and the rich with cars – pay. I forgot – Dayton just promised to “tax those with cars.”

        Of course, Dayton could just raise taxes on business and that way only the businesses will pay taxes and not the poor. This probably makes perfect sense to you….

  5. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/09/2014 - 06:36 pm.

    Well, no one can say they weren’t warned. If Dayton gets re-elected I hope he raises the tax by a buck….for starters.

  6. Submitted by Tom Knisely on 10/09/2014 - 08:49 pm.

    It’s a Regressive Tax

    Mr. Progressive Mark Dayton proposes a regressive gas tax increase that will hurt the poor and working class. Go figure. I guess his insatiable appetite for government spending outweighs his concern for people.

  7. Submitted by rolf westgard on 10/10/2014 - 03:09 am.

    Bravo, Dayton

    For having the courage to propose a much needed gas tax. The funds will be spent in Minnesota using Minnesota resources.

  8. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/10/2014 - 06:48 am.

    Gas Tax

    Since when have the conservatives EVER been concerned about the poor? Propose a gas tax, which is sorely needed to fix our roads and keep bridges from collapsing, and suddenly they’re champions of the downtrodden.

    Next thing you know they’ll be supporting the minimum wage increase and universal health care!

    • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 10/10/2014 - 09:48 am.

      Not a chance

      Remember the debate in the last presidential race when many cheered for letting the uninsured die on the streets rather than receive medical care

  9. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/10/2014 - 09:09 am.

    Schwoops! Now Dayton’s minions say he says he “misspoke”. Lol. Given his tax and spend frenzy of the past 4 years, that’s gonna be a tough nut to sell, probably.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/10/2014 - 09:12 am.

    What’s the problem?

    There’s no reason we shouldn’t raise the gas tax to pay for our roads and bridges… THAT’S how we pay for our roads and bridges. If we had done so on a regular basis our auto infrastructure wouldn’t have deteriorated in the first place. These tax hikes are long overdue. All these mental gymnastics to avoid the obvious are just wasting our time and collapsing our infrastructure. Yeah, it’s a tax hike, so what? You think you get roads and bridges for free?

    Gas taxes are just a different way of collecting user fees, and I prefer them to tolls, tolls are a hassle especially if your just driving through rather than living in an area. By the way, all that administration necessary to collect tolls isn’t free either. Try to find out for instance just how much money that French company is collecting on the 394 toll lane and how much is going towards repair and maintenance of the lane?

  11. Submitted by Mike Seim on 10/10/2014 - 01:31 pm.

    Kitchen Table Budget

    To follow through on the ol’ “family budget” theme: Dayton wants to get a second job to pay for needed expenses. Johnson wants to put them on the credit card. Who’s fiscally responsible again?

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/11/2014 - 09:12 am.

      Actually… no.

      These family budget comparisons have to stop. Dayton doesn’t want to get an extra job, he simply wants to pay for road work by collecting the necessary revenue. Why does that equate to getting an extra job instead of getting a raise or a better job? Meanwhile Johnson promises the old efficient government gambit that republicans never deliver on. He explicitly rejects the credit card approach because that would mean bigger bonding bills. What he will do is take money away from other state programs like education, welfare, and transit, in order to put it into roads. So in “kitchen table” terms that’s choosing not to pay the heating bill in order to pay the cable tv bill instead.

      Dayton wants to pay for our roads while Johnson want to take money away from programs he doesn’t like and put that money into roads… THAT the difference. Johnson will create a budget crises and deficits because he ALSO want to cut taxes… that’s the good old republican magical thinking again instead of math.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/16/2014 - 12:56 pm.

        Priorities and Effectiveness

        From your description, it sounds like Johnson wants to hold government spending to reasonable growth rates and use that pressure to promote improvements in how government sets priorities and improves effectiveness.

        Whereas Dayton wants to keep feeding the bureaucrats and public employee unions as much as they ask for by letting government spending increase at a rate that is not sustainable.

        I think of Dayton as that Father who is happy to spoil his children with someone else’s money, rather than helping them to learn to live within a reasonable allowance.

        • Submitted by jason myron on 10/18/2014 - 12:25 pm.


          Johnson wants to slash and burn any program that I don’t like, while Dayton wants to continue to help those icky poor people and subsidize their poor life choices on my dime.

  12. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/12/2014 - 09:47 am.

    “These family budget comparisons have to stop.”

    I agree. Most families don’t have a magic money tree growing in the yard. Most families don’t buy billion dollar sports arenas for their crazy uncles. Most families don’t build choo choo train lines while their station wagon sits rusting in the driveway.

    And finally, most families don’t have a dad who announces “I had no idea” when the mortage check bounces.

    Public administration under Democratic control is more akin to a teenager rifling through moms purse to buy a kegger.

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