A conference committee of Minnesota’s House and Senate reached a compromise Tuesday that will put an end to the state’s vehicle emissions testing program. Under the old plan, Twin Cities metropolitan area cars were required to pass emissions tests, which cost automobile owners $8 per car, in order to qualify to purchase license tabs. The compromise, which enjoys broad support in the House and Senate, should pass and then eventually be signed into law by Gov. Jesse Ventura, who has supported ending the testing.
By rolling back this program, Minnesota will become unique among the states. One intelligent approach our state took to this program was outsourcing it to a private contractor. Now, when the time comes to end the program, it is easier to do so without fighting a set of internal stakeholders inside the government. This is a case of prudent decision making and should be applauded by the citizens of Minnesota.
Minnesota’s eight-year emissions program has outlived its usefulness. It is important to note that the compromise agreed upon a date of March 1, 2000 as being the target for completion. Gov. Ventura has expressed concern that our region may not be cleared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as having met federal air-quality standards for carbon monoxide. However, by reaching the decision to end the program in March, the Legislature has ensured that they will be in session if the standards are not met. Presumably, if we have failed, the House and Senate can extend the program.
These environmental tests are important because, should Minnesota repeal the program and then fail, the state would be subject to sanctions by the federal government. Based on the advice of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, though, barring any unforeseen circumstances, we should have no trouble passing. And if Minnesota passes the federal requirements earlier, we can act to end the tests right away.
The emissions testing regimen was primarily aimed at requiring old cars to conform to the new standards. New cars already meet the rigorous federal standards because auto-manufacturers follow them in new-car design. Moreover, any older cars that did not meet the standards have already been upgraded. The testing no longer accomplishes anything.
This bill fits right in with Gov. Ventura’s rhetoric about downsizing unnecessary government programs. And what better arrangement than to have the default measure be elimination, rather then extension, of a state program? Indeed, a better lesson from this bill might be the decision reached whereby the state has to act to extend a program, not eliminate it. This should be the way all temporary programs are handled.
By ending this program Minnesota will free up citizens from the burden of a tax that has since siphoned off $8 million a year. While when the numbers are figured per driver the cost goes down, it is nice to see that at least on one item Gov. Ventura is, as one could say, undelivering the goods. His administration will be a successful one and gain the public’s trust if he continues to support initiatives like this. Pollution control is good thing, but it is better not to take the knee-jerk reaction approach to support a program that no longer measurably benefits our environment.