A coalition of transportation advocates is asking state lawmakers to allocate more funds toward Minnesota road and transit projects -- but the plan may cost residents.
MoveMN presented its reform and funding proposal at a joint hearing of the House and Senate Transportation Committees on Tuesday, laying out their long-term solutions before the 2014 legislative session.
Minnesota Department of Transportation commissioner Charles Zelle told legislators "a perfect storm is coming" in transportation funding as revenues cannot keep up with the costs.
4 WAYS TO PAY FOR INFRASTRUCTURE
1. Introduce a 5 percent sales tax on wholesale fuel in Minnesota to generate $360 million annually from distributors.
2. Increase the .25-cent sales tax in seven-county Twin Cities area to 1 cent to generate $335 million annually.
3. Put $16 million toward bike and pedestrian infrastructure in greater Minnesota.
4. Close the sale tax loophole on leased vehicles to generate $32 million annually.
SPEAKER SKEPTICAL PLAN WILL SEE SUPPORT
Minnesota House Speaker Paul Thissen described the proposal as a great start to the discussion; however, without support from Republicans and members of the business community, he doubts a comprehensive transportation bill could pass the legislature in 2014.
"There is no question that our state is nearing a crisis point when it comes to transportation and infrastructure," Thissen told Fox 9 News. "We need a statewide conversation about the need for a comprehensive transportation solution to sustain our economic competitiveness, and I commend MoveMN for their work to engage Minnesotans in that conversation."
Although Thissen credited MoveMN with bringing forward ideas on paying for transportation investments, he said he was sure others will also emerge.
SHOULD MINNESOTA GAS TAX BE RAISED?
Although the wholesale gas tax would be applied where distributors buy their fuel, critics of the plan believe the increase would eventually be passed on to consumers at the pump.
"I think it could be a good thing, but there's also a bad side in that people are going to be paying more," Bill Nesbit said.
Yet, while though most motorists admit they are not keen on paying more at the pump, the current tax levels aren't keeping up. Minnesotans currently pay 47 cents per gallon to state and federal taxes, which is lower than both Wisconsin and Illinois but higher than Iowa and both Dakotas.
MoveMN argues that even though a 10-cent hike in the cost of gas would cost consumers about $2 more each week, it is cheaper than wasting fuel in congestion and incurring costly car repair bills from driving on bad roads.
"Those are real costs for people when we don't' take care of our transportation system, Margaret Donahue said.
The debate is shaping up as the Minnesota Department of Transportation's own 20-year plan shows a $12 billion funding gap in meeting the state's transportation needs.