February 19, 2019 10:13 PM
The cost to drive could climb under the state budget laid out by Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday.
The two-year spending plan totals nearly $50 billion. It includes a 20-cent-per-gallon increase to the Minnesota gas tax to help pay for transportation projects.
“It is a choice between living in a state with the best transportation system in the country or one with crumbling roads and bridges that risk our safety and keep away businesses,” said Walz.
It’s going to be difficult to push through at the Capitol.
“It's very unlikely a 20-cent-per-gallon tax increase is going to pass in Minnesota,” said David Schultz, a political science professor at Hamline University. “It has the Governor's support, it probably has the Democrats’ support in the House of Representatives and it's critical to much of their agenda. I see almost no chance it's going to pass the Minnesota Senate.”
“I can find very little that the Democrats can truly offer the Republicans in the Senate to go along with,” Schultz said.
The increase would be phased in over two years, and then increases would be tied to the rate of inflation.
“The last time, back in 2008, that Republicans supported a gas tax increase, they were primaried in their own party,” said Schultz. “Those Republicans who supported it were essentially ousted from their positions.”
He said the proposal would affect rural Minnesotans the most, who have to drive farther for work and errands.
According to Schultz, Gov. Walz will need to work hard to convince suburban and rural Republicans to support the increase.
“I always think a compromise could be reached, I’m just not sure what it is here,” said Schultz. “If the idea is to propose 20 percent but hope for five or ten percent, maybe. But again I’m still skeptical. I sort of think that a compromise at the end of the day is not likely.”
Drivers are wary of the increase.
“I think it’s a lot,” said Kaliah Vang, of St. Paul. “Just trying to get by during the winter too, a 20 cent increase, that’s just coming out of my check, that's a lot.”
She told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS every cent counts.
"If the increase passes," Vang said, “I don’t even want to drive anymore.”
Greg Swenson of Rochester also disagrees with the tax.
“They said they have a billion dollar surplus this year, why don’t they use that to fix the infrastructure?” he said. “I don’t think we need more taxes.”
Other drivers, however, are more optimistic.
“I’m all for it, I think it's great,” said Mark Turbak of Minneapolis. “I think it's time. I think it's time to do it. We have to pay for things and it makes sense that we're doing it in a way that seems pretty fair.”
Minnesotans currently pay 28.5 cents per gallon under the current gas tax. The proposed increase would nearly double that to 48.5 cents per gallon.
Among neighboring states, Wisconsin currently has the highest gas tax at 30.9 cents per gallon.
Gov. Walz also proposes increasing the registration and motor vehicle sales taxes. It’s part of the transportation plan, he said, that will fund a six billion dollar gap over the next decade.
Republican state leaders said they were surprised by the combination, calling them regressive taxes that will hurt most Minnesotans.
Updated: February 19, 2019 10:13 PM
Created: February 19, 2019 09:50 PM
Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company