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Minnesota Governor Backs Off Raising State Gas Tax

MN Gov. Mark Dayton, fearing that a statewide gas tax increase lacks popular support, will not back the legislature's proposal to raise it, but has affirmed his support for a regional general sales tax for transit. But it may not be that easy.
April 15, 2013, 1pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Pat Doyle writes how Gov. Dayton's actions have forced the state legislature to rethink their transportation package - the backbone having been a 7.5-cent gas tax increase. The Democratic governor, who fears that a gas tax increase lacks popular approval, maintained his support for "raising sales taxes in the seven-county Twin Cities metro area for light-rail and bus transit", but the Democratic chairman of the House transportation committee canceled a meeting in which they would take up a bill authorizing the regional sales tax.

Raising transportation taxes is “difficult to do if it’s not statewide in nature,” said Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis. Moving forward with only a metro transit sales increase would be a “piecemeal” approach to transportation funding, he said.

This is not the first time that a governor has had to oppose members of his own party on gas tax increases, which often transcend party boundaries. Republican Governor Matt Mead of Wyoming opposed Republican members in his senate to get his 10-cent gas tax approved in February.

While Dayton backed down in supporting the gas tax in part because he believes it lacks popular support, that was certainly not the case when he presented his budget "to a crowd of approximately 200" in the city of Mankato on April 8. Josh Moniz of The (New Ulm) Journal writes that when Dayton "asked for a show of hands of how many people supported the gas tax hike (a) large majority of the 200 people in attendance raised their hands."

Minnesota has a history of the legislature attempting to increase the gas tax and the governor opposing it. Gov. Tim Pawlenty had vetoed three such measures - but the last one was successfully over-riden. In 2008, for the first time in two decades, the gas excise tax was raised incrementally by 5.5-cents to 28.5-cents (see Tax Foundation for all state gas taxes). No doubt the collapse of the I-35W bridge on August 1, 2007 may have prompted some legislators to vote for the over-ride of the veto.

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Published on Wednesday, April 10, 2013 in StarTribune (Minneapolis)
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