GOP plan to fund improve roads without additional taxes is problematic

Ronald Dixon

At the start of the 2015 legislative session, Republicans were justly criticized for releasing an inadequate transportation infrastructure plan. Concurrently, Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party lawmakers presented a plan that would allocate billions of dollars toward necessary road and bridge construction via a new tax on the wholesale price of gas.

Last week, Republicans revised their proposal, claiming that they could fix our crumbling highways without raising taxes. A brief analysis of their plan, however, shows that it is fiscally irresponsible.

The plan calls for vast reallocations of existing taxes, including 50 percent of the Motor Vehicle Lease sales tax. Additionally, it relies on revenue from existing auto parts and rental vehicle taxes. It also asks the Minnesota Department of Transportation to magically trim $1.2 billion. Money from Trunk Highway bonds, General Obligation bonds and the general fund would pay for the remaining balance.

Instead of providing a steady, stable stream of money that would fully fund road construction across the state, Republicans are relying on a piecemeal, short-term plan that diverts funds from other essential areas. In particular, General Obligation bonds are routinely used to fund a vast array of priorities, such as education. Squandering the $2 billion surplus also leaves Minnesota vulnerable to future economic slumps.

To tackle the challenging problem of crumbling transportation infrastructure, we need serious solutions. Unfortunately, Republicans appear to lack one.