Gas tax necessary with surplus

To cover long-term expenses like infrastructure reform, we must look for ways to pay for it.

Ronald Dixon

This January, I wrote a column advocating new user taxes to fund repairs of our crumbling transportation infrastructure. While the need to reform our outdated and dangerous roads and bridges is still pressing, some recent budgetary news may derail legislators from adequately funding long-term projects.

Late last month, the state budget office announced that the projected surplus grew to $1.9 billion, up $832 million from previous estimates.

While this is certainly excellent news, as Minnesota’s progressive leadership set the stage for economic growth and government fiscal responsibility, this extra cash will make it more difficult to justify to taxpayers why they should pay more at the pump to fund transportation improvements. Moreover, Republicans in the Legislature, including House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, are claiming that we no longer need the tax.

In reality, though, providing a piecemeal solution to a problem that has been delayed for decades is an irresponsible approach to addressing transportation needs. The proposed gas tax, for example, which taxes gas at the wholesale level, would guarantee a steady stream of income for transportation projects that require years of toil and investment.

While I understand the political realities surrounding the gas tax, especially in the wake of the revised budget surplus, politicians on both sides of the aisle must make the tough choice to implement this long-term funding solution for repairing our roads and bridges.