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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Shane Mekeland (R)

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Update from St. Paul

Friday, March 22, 2019

Dear Neighbor,

Before we get to news from the Capitol, I’d like to thank Becker Mayor Tracy Bertram and Sherburne County Commissioner Tim Dolan for taking time to sit down for a roundtable discussion last Friday. It was a good exchange of thoughts and ideas, including local infrastructure projects.

On a separate but similar note, a number of mayors and other local officials from around Minnesota were in St. Paul to advocate for a “street funding solution” this session. They conducted a press conference and brought chunks of pavement, broken hubcaps, etc., to make their point.

I think we all agree our roads need fixing. If it is the priority we all say it is, then why is the governor proposing to undo changes the Legislature made in the last biennium which led to a historic investment in our transportation infrastructure without increasing the gas tax? It strikes me as odd that Democrats are championing the governor’s plan to raise our gas tax by 70 percent, yet want us to use less gas and are looking to continue pouring billions into light rail lines.

Let’s fix our roads and bridges that people use every day and continue to focus on delivering dedicated revenue through existing sources (such as the sales taxes already paid on auto parts) instead of going back to the taxpayers for more.

I mentioned this in a column I submitted to area newspapers this week but, if the governor thinks the public is eager to pay another 20 cents at the pump, I ask him to get behind a bill I have authored to voluntarily let that happen. My bill (H.F. 2469) would allow an optional tax of 20 cents per gallon to be collected at the pump in the consumer consents.

If the consumer wishes to pay the additional tax, the retailer will collect the additional tax and remit it quarterly to the commissioner of revenue, who would then deposit the money into the highway user tax distribution fund. The bill admittedly is unlikely to gain traction, but the bottom line is the gas tax is extremely regressive in that it hits low-income earners the hardest.

Most of our time at this point in the session is being spent in committee meetings as bills make their way through the process. One bill hearing in the Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee last Thursday became a bit contentious when a Democrat from Roseville presented a bill banning anyone from buying or selling the opportunity to hunt any privately owned big game. In other words, it would mean the end for big game farms such as Autumn Antlers between Little Falls and Long Prairie.

I strongly oppose this bill and thank the citizens – such as Denny Niess – of Autumn Antlers who took the time to come to the meeting and provide testimony against this proposal. We did our best to set the chief author straight on this issue. If hunting at a preserve is not your thing, so be it. But we should not be shoving our agenda on others by taking this option away from those who do like to participate – eliminating an economic industry along the way. In fact, these facilities provide the only hunting outlet for a large number of people in our society, from disabled veterans and beyond.

While video of the meeting is not available on the committee website, you can click here for the audio. Discussion of this particular bill (H.F. 2321) starts at the 2:22:17 mark.




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