Coalition pushes for more funding for transportationPublished 7:00am Sunday, March 23, 2014
Road funding isn’t just a local issue — state and federal transportation dollars have stayed flat or dwindled over the years. Recent studies by the Center for Rural Policy and Development show Minnesota will need at least $12 billion to fix its deteriorating roads and bridges.
The issue has caused more than 200 businesses and organizations to form a lobbying coalition called Move MN dedicated to getting legislators to shift money back to transportation funds and create sustainable revenue sources.
“We are getting close to a crisis in funding,” said Darin Broton, Move MN campaign manager.
The cost to repair roads and bridges has increased by about 70 percent overall since 2004, in part due to increasing oil, steel and aggregate prices and in part due to Minnesota’s chilly weather.
“Building and maintaining roads in Minnesota is a heck of a lot harder than Georgia or Texas or many parts of the country because of the climate,” Broton said.
The group is calling on legislators to close a loophole in the 2006 state constitutional amendment to give motor vehicle sales tax dollars to state transportation. Taxes on leased vehicles go to the state’s general fund, and while some of that money has been redirected to transportation projects, Broton said leased vehicle taxes create about $32 million in funding a year which Move MN believes should go back into transportation.
“We can take that $32 million out of the surplus and dedicate that money where it’s supposed to go,” Broton said. “It’s an easy solution that doesn’t cost taxpayers one new cent.”
The group also advocates a wholesale fuel tax on oil producers and refineries in the state. Broton said a wholesale tax would keep up with oil inflation and continue to provide revenue, as the per-gallon fuel tax revenue collected by the state has decreased over the past few years. Move MN estimates the cost of the tax wouldn’t significantly raise gas prices for consumers.
“We think it’ll be about a 10-cent increase at the pump, which is about equivalent to less than $2 a week per household,” Broton said.
Move MN would also like to see more funding go toward bike and walk trail infrastructure throughout the state, as well as a 3/4 cent increase in the seven-county metro tax to fix more seven-county metro roadways.
Yet more funding is just a part of the issue for Move MN. The group is calling on the Minnesota Department of Transportation to be more transparent with its finances and projects.
“We have expectations that the Department of Transportation needs to be more upfront and transparent on how these projects are going, where the money is being spent and why things cost as much as they do,” Broton said.