The Minnesota Legislature opened its new session Wednesday,
Jan. 3, with some lawmakers planning to pursue a fuel tax increase to pay for
transportation work. Gov. Tim Pawlenty opposes the plan.
Leaders in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party who control the
House and Senate plan to open this year's transportation funding talks by
considering a boost in the state's fuel tax, the West Central Tribune reported.
Two years ago, lawmakers approved a 10-cent-per-gallon tax
increase on diesel and gas. However, Pawlenty vetoed the effort then and said
he would do the same this year.
"I'm not proposing and won't be proposing tax increases of
any sort," Pawlenty told the Tribune.
The Senate and House transportation committee chairmen said
raising the fuel tax would help get the state a little closer to the estimated
$2 billion in annual funding needed for transportation.
Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, the Senate's transportation
leader, is working on a bill that would increase the state's 20-cent-per-gallon
tax by 10 cents, the Winona Daily News
reported. The tax rate has remained unchanged for nearly 20 years.
Not all lawmakers in the majority party are on board with
the idea to increase taxes.
Assistant House Majority Leader Frank Moe, DFL-Bemidji,
would rather use part of the state's $1 billion surplus for transportation.
Pawlenty soon will release his 2007 transportation funding
plan. It is expected to include a pilot project to "start replacing the (fuel)
tax" with alternative funding sources, the Tribune
In addition to the fuel tax debate, lawmakers are expected
to discuss whether the state's new highways should be built to withstand
Roads in the state are built to accommodate nine tons of
weight per vehicle axle. Some lawmakers are calling for a 10-ton standard.
- By Keith Goble,
state legislative editor