Dayton, new MnDOT head differ on gas tax hike

Published 10:46 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS — Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he opposes increasing the state’s gas tax “at this time,” putting him at odds with the man he appointed to lead Minnesota’s Department of Transportation.

Dayton tapped Minneapolis bus company executive Charlie Zelle as the new commissioner of the agency. He has been president and chief executive of his family’s bus company, Jefferson Lines, for more than two decades.

Dayton cited Zelle’s business experience as motivating his choice. But the two immediately took different positions on a proposal, put forward last week by a Dayton-appointed task force on which Zelle served, to raise Minnesota’s gas tax by 40 cents per gallon over two decades to help improve roads and boost transit options.

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The Transportation Finance Advisory Committee called for raising at least $50 billion more for roads and transit in the next 20 years. While saying that Minnesota has gone “backward and downward” in transportation funding, Dayton said a gas tax hike lacks public support.

Zelle stood by the task force recommendation.