Peggy Bennett: Gas tax would be bad for southern Minnesota

Published 7:35 pm Friday, March 15, 2019

Capitol Comments by Peggy Bennett

Peggy Bennett

 

Gov. Walz’s budget proposal to enact a massive increase to Minnesota’s gasoline tax is very concerning to me, especially for those of us living in rural Minnesota who tend to have to drive many more miles.

His proposal would raise Minnesota’s gas tax by at least 20 cents per gallon — an outrageous 70 percent increase — vaulting Minnesota’s gas tax to fourth highest in the nation.

This is wrong for so many reasons.

Let’s start with the very obvious: This tax increase would impact everyone from the rich to the very poor. The reality is it would hurt lower-income workers, seniors on fixed incomes and the poorest of the poor the worst, because they have less money to spend to begin with — and all this when we have a current budget surplus.

With our close proximity to Iowa, there’s little doubt raising the gas tax will hurt our local economy. Instead of stopping at our gas stations and travel centers to not only fill up but purchase snacks, drinks and anything else, motorists who know better will simply wait until they get into Iowa to pull over, knowing they will save money by doing so.

The gas tax is an antiquated tax. Because of that, it is becoming less and less able to serve its purpose as a long-term transportation funding source. After all, our goal is to use less gasoline as our vehicles become more fuel efficient, and the advent of electric cars has made this reality even more impactful on gas tax revenue. This funding source is gradually going away. We need to start thinking outside of the box and utilize a better way to fund our roads and bridges for the future.

Last session, the Legislature proved it can raise more money for roads and bridges without raising any taxes. We made the largest investment in roads and bridges in the last 10 years without asking Minnesotans to pay more at the pump, resulting in billions of dollars specifically dedicated to transportation needs. As part of this plan, we redirected revenue from a number of vehicle-related taxes that Minnesotans are already paying (vehicle parts, vehicle repair, etc.) and put that money into a special fund to be used only for roads and bridges.

Sadly, Gov. Walz would empty out this special road and bridge fund and send those dollars back to the general fund for the DFL to spend on pet projects. A full one-third of the governor’s 20-cent increase will not be new money, but will be used to backfill money that is already there to fix our roads and bridges. I don’t think it’s fair to ask taxpayers to do the heavy lifting to replace money that is already there. This is outrageous and not fair to seniors on fixed incomes, struggling families and all of us who already carry the burden of a hefty gas tax!

We proved last session that we could make a serious investment into our roads and bridges without raising taxes, and if left to Gov. Walz, he would eliminate a good chunk of this money and force you to pay a minimum of 20 cents more per gallon every time you fill up. In the face of a $1 billion surplus, there’s no reason to raise taxes on anyone, and there’s certainly no reason to force our drivers to pay more.

State Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, represents Minnesota House District 27A, which includes almost all of Freeborn County, along with parts of Faribault, Mower, Steele and Dodge counties. She can be reached by phone at 651-296-8216 or by email at rep. peggy.bennett@house.mn.