ST. PAUL – House Democrats are expected to approve Monday a transportation bill (H.F. 1555) which increases the gas tax by 20 cents per gallon – a 70-percent increase – and in total raises taxes by more than $4 billion over four years.
“I think there is widespread agreement that our roads need fixing, but it should not come through a plan that hurts low- and middle-income earners and those living in Greater Minnesota the most,” said Rep. Shane Mekeland, R-Clear Lake. “It is interesting that Democrats say they want to raise the gas tax to improve roads and bridges, yet they also want us to stop using fossil fuels and are looking to continue pouring billions into building light rail lines. Northstar is currently subsidized at almost $45 per round-trip rider.”
In addition to the increase of 20 cents per gallon – which would give Minnesota the fourth-highest gas tax in the country – the House Democrats’ transportation bill increases the vehicle registration tax, the metro sales tax, and the new vehicle sales tax will increase taxes on Minnesotans by a combined $2.3 billion.
“This is all part of the House Democrats’ plan to raise our taxes by $12 billion over the next four years at a time we have a $1 billion surplus,” Mekeland said. “These taxes will hurt all of us. Throughout this legislative session, we have repeatedly heard about the lack of affordable housing. These taxes will only make our houses more expensive, as well as our food and practically all other products we purchase every day of our lives.”
The bill also transfers statutorily dedicated auto parts sales tax funds – $417 million in 2020-21 – into the general fund. This reverses the major investments House and Senate Republicans made during the last biennium to fund road and bridge infrastructure without a gas tax increase.
Mekeland unsuccessfully offered an amendment to the transportation bill which, instead of making the gas tax increase mandatory, allows people to decide at the pump whether they want to pay 20 cents more per gallon.
“If citizens are fully embracing the Democrats’ plan to raise the gas tax by 20 cents, then they certainly would jump at the opportunity to press a button to do so on their own free will,” Mekeland said. “Maybe pumps could even be programmed so the really enthusiastic gas tax supporters could raise their own tax even beyond that extra 20 cents.”