Minnesota Legislature passes transportation bill with delivery fees, gas tax increase
Both the Minnesota House and Senate voted Sunday to pass a transportation spending package that budgets $7.8 billion for roads, transit, airports and more over the next two years.
The bill passed 69-61 in the House and 34-32 in the Senate and now heads to Gov. Tim Walz for final approval.
Rep. Frank Hornstein, the bill’s chief author in the House of Representatives, called the bill “long overdue.”
“Members, this is a historic, generational investment in transportation which will move our state forward in so many ways, for decades and decades to come,” Hornstein said.
Rep. Erin Koegel, DFL-Spring Lake Park, said the state would face a $30 billion transportation shortfall over the next 20 years if the transportation bill was not approved.
“With more than $1 billion per year in new long-term and dedicated revenue, this House file is a major step forward in fixing and catching up on our transportation infrastructure. That is what we need to do,” said Koegel.
Some of the projects funded under the new spending bill include $194.7 million for a Northern Lights Express passenger rail between the Twin Cities and Duluth, $50 million for an extension of the Metro Transit Blue Line into the northwest suburbs and $3 million for a bus rapid transit line along Highway 169 and Highway 55.
Lawmakers also touted the establishment of the Transit Rider Investment Program, or TRIP, which will put transit officials on buses and trains as a means of fare enforcement and monitoring passenger activity.
Among the more controversial measures included in the legislation are a gas tax increase indexed to inflation and a new $0.50 fee on retail deliveries totaling more than $100.
Food — including from restaurants — medical supplies and baby products are exempt from the new delivery fee. It’s also reduced from the $0.75 fee originally proposed in the House.
There’s also a 0.75% metro-area sales tax increase meant to fund public transportation and increased fees for auto sales and car tabs.
Some House Republicans, such as Rep. Nolan West, R-Blaine, did not support the tax increases while the state has a $17.5 billion surplus.
“Instead of using that money, this bill raises taxes by $3.7 billion dollars. It’s insane,” West said.
House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, said the spending and taxing is a “grab for more” when more could have been taken from the surplus.
“Saying to Minnesotans, ‘We had your money. We had $17.5 billion extra of your money. Not enough. We’re going to double down on that and take a little bit more,’” Demuth said.
Gov. Tim Walz said Sunday he supports the transportation budget bill and will sign it as soon as it reaches his desk. The new taxes and fees will take effect starting Jan. 1, 2024.