Legislators pass landmark transportation bill


Meeting into Thursday evening, the Minnesota House and Senate passed major legislation to improve roads, bridges and transit – and set up a showdown with Governor Tim Pawlenty.

The Transportation finance plan, HF2800, passed 89-44 in the House and 47-20 in the Senate.

The $6.7 billion funding proposal would, in part:

• raise the state’s gas tax by 2 cents the day after enactment and another 3 cents on Oct. 1, 2008;

• create a $25 tax credit for the two lowest tax brackets to help offset the increase;

• increase vehicle tab fees on newly registered vehicles and remove tab fee caps;

• authorize counties in the Twin Cities metropolitan area to impose a 0.25 percent metropolitan transportation sales tax without referendum and a $20 excise tax on vehicles sold at retail. In the other 80 counties a tax of up to 0.5 percent could be raised by voter referendum and only for a specific project; and

• authorize $1.8 billion in trunk highway bonding for fiscal years 2009 to 2018, with $1 billion of that in the first two years. A gas tax debt surcharge of up to 3.5 cents would be established to repay the trunk highway bonds.

Pawlenty has vowed to veto legislation that would raise the gas tax. DFL legislative leaders in both houses hope to override a veto if it happens.

In response to critics of the gas tax increase – the first in 20 years – Senator Steve Murphy, the Senate sponsor, said it amounts to “a cup of coffee at Starbucks” every few days.

“We’re not asking for people to not buy diapers for their kid or formula,” he said. “We’re not asking them to not pay their property taxes. We’re not asking them to do without a lot of the comforts they already have . . .

“This might add to my yearly bill $100 . . . If everybody kicks in their $100, we get all the potholes filled. . . we get all the intersections cleaned up where people die horrible deaths . . we get all the bridges fixed.”

This article contains information from Session Daily, published by the Minnesota House of Representatives.

For more information
Visit the Legislature’s website, http://www.leg.state.mn.us/