Gov. Walz weighs in on gas tax idea, Mayo Clinic position on nursing bill

Capitol Wrap: Gov. Walz talks tax hike, Mayo Clinic investments

Capitol Wrap: Gov. Walz talks tax hike, Mayo Clini investments

In the closing days of the Minnesota legislative session, Gov. Tim Walz weighed in on two hot topics, one that just popped up and one that’s been in the works all session: A possible gas tax increase and Mayo Clinic wanting out of a nurse staffing bill.

Just this week, some lawmakers looking for ways to fund transportation began talking about indexing future gas tax increases to increases in inflation to keep up with demands for new roads and bridges. Walz noted he hasn’t proposed a gas tax increase, but is open to it as he has been in the past.

“I know they’re bringing up things on this,” he said during an availability with news reporters. “We did not have that in our budget that we put forward. But I have said and I continue to say we need to invest in these roads. This (gas tax) is dedicated, it’s long-term. Everything else has gone up in price, the cost of roads, the cost of everything. The gas tax has stayed where it was at.”

The governor also anticipated those who will question the need for a gas tax increase with an $18 billion surplus. He says it’s a complex issue because much of the surplus is one-time money and roads need ongoing funding.

“I hear the arguments on this,” he said. “It hits the poorest the hardest. That is a conversation we have always had to have and as we transfer to electric how are we going to make sure they pay their fair share of the roads.”

A spokesman for DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman says she is open to the idea of indexing gas tax increases to inflation, noting she voted for similar proposals in 2019 and 2021.

Also Wednesday, Walz made his strongest comments yet on the issue of whether Mayo Clinic should be subject to provisions in a bill called the “Nurses at the Bedside Act” that would give nurses more say in staffing levels at Minnesota hospitals.

“So we’re still trying to broker a deal on that,” the governor said, just before adding that any deal should exclude Mayo Clinic. “I’ve made it clear. I said we don’t want Mayo included in that.”

Walz said he represented southern Minnesota in Congress for 12 years and knows about the importance and influence of Mayo Clinic.

“Mayo is not in the business of bluffing or playing at the politics, if you will,” he said, before adding he hopes Mayo will at least participate in a solution. “They have to recognize that everything involves a give and take with people. At this point in time we want those investments in Minnesota. They need to be in Minnesota.”

The Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) isn’t happy with Mayo or the governor. They’ve been demonstrating outside the governor’s office all week since they first learned about Mayo’s threat to halt investments in the state.

“I found it shocking when I first heard about it,” MNA President Mary Turner told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. “Kind of like all of this is the way the world works. Am I disillusioned? Disappointed? Angry? Yes, all of those.”

Lawmakers have five days left to finish their work, including the nursing bill and transportation funding.