Lawmakers consider taxes, tolls to cover road costs

10:48 PM, Feb 19, 2013   |    comments
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Paying for transportation projects will take a good amount of political maneuvering this session at the State Capitol and while several ideas have been floated about, one of them includes a plan that would charge drivers a toll.

"Transportation has actually become so underfunded that it's become a constraint on our economy," DFL Senator Scott Dibble of Minneapolis pointed out.

Dibble chair's the Transportation Committee and he says one piece of the puzzle that is proving to be very expensive connects Minnesota with its neighbors to the east.

"The thing to understand about the St. Croix Bridge is it's absorbing a lot of our resources in our existing budget," he said.

Representative Frank Hornstein chairs the House Transportation Finance Committee. He's wondered openly about the possibility of asking for a toll to cross. He says Minnesota's share of the project is about $170 million.

"I'm just saying if people don't' want a gas tax, what's the alternative? So we're looking at all options," the DFLer from Minneapolis told KARE 11. "We still have a thousand bridges we need to repair."

If the idea of tolls comes up in the future, there will likely be opposition on a couple of levels.

"Terrible idea. Tolls are a terrible idea. That's the one thing I always loved about Minnesota, we do not have toll rolls," U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann of Stillwater said.

Bachmann was also proud to note the bridge funding on a federal level was put together with bi-partisan support from Minnesotans in Washington.

"That is nothing that was talked about when the federal funding came through," Republican Senator John Pederson of St. Cloud said.

Pederson is also on the Transportation Committee. He's not excited about the possibility of a toll or a gas tax.

"Minnesotans are expecting us to meet their needs, their transportation needs, through the taxes that they're already paying," he said.

Pederson mentioned the possibility of a wheelage tax, something that is used in a handful of counties already. Hornstein also wants it discussed. It seems a lot of ideas remain on the table for transportation funding.

Dibble and Hornstein say if and when the gas tax is talked about on the committee level, an increase wouldn't be anything exorbitant, perhaps a 5 or 10 cent a gallon increase.

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