Minnesota lawmaker wants higher fuel taxes

| 2/4/2005

Minnesota’s top Senate Republican is throwing his support behind a nickel-per-gallon boost in the state’s fuel tax.

Senate Minority Leader Dick Day of Owatonna also is proposing adding a surcharge on motor vehicle sales to pay for road construction.

Day’s plan is one of several built around an increase in Minnesota’s diesel and gasoline fuel tax, which has been at 20 cents since 1988. Along with a $125 surcharge on new vehicles and a $75 surcharge on used vehicles, his proposal would send an estimated $260 million a year for roads.

The efforts would require approval of the House, Senate and governor’s office.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, however, took a no-new-tax campaign pledge and has promised to veto any tax increases.

“The governor would be a fool if he didn’t let it lie on his desk and become law,” Day told The Associated Press. “We’re falling behind everyday.”

Pawlenty is recommending a 10-year, $7.2 billion road plan that would pay for work expanding and improving the state highway system largely through new borrowing. His plan would give voters the final say.

A senior Pawlenty adviser, Tom Mason, said the governor has been clear on the fuel tax.

“Any transportation bill that includes a gas-tax increase without requiring voter approval is on a road to nowhere,” Mason told The AP. “It’s not going to get his support.”

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, said Democrats are likely to propose a fuel tax increase next week. He hinted it could be above what Day suggested.

“I’m not sure if the Republicans are willing to confront the governor, but I think they’re trying to show the governor there is support for this,” Murphy said.