Road, bridge bill approvedST. PAUL — Minnesotans would pay more in taxes for improved roads and bridges in a $6.6 billion transportation funding package the Legislature passed Thursday and sent to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who promises to veto it.
By: Scott Wente, The Republican Eagle
ST. PAUL — Minnesotans would pay more in taxes for improved roads and bridges in a $6.6 billion transportation funding package the Legislature passed Thursday and sent to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who promises to veto it.
Supporters of the bill framed it as a dramatic compromise and the result of nearly two-dozen concessions made over the past few days. They said it addresses road needs in all areas of the state, provides new money for bridge improvements and pays for bus and rail expansion.
Projects that will benefit from the 10-year package are paid for with gasoline and sales tax increases, license tab hikes and state borrowing.
Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, who authored the Senate bill, said the package will invite business growth in the state.
“If you build a decent interchange, they will come,” he said.
Freshman Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Wabasha, said when he campaigned for office last year, voters told him to make transportation a priority.
“Making things a priority requires discipline,” he said.
Families cannot afford tax increases, Drazkowski said, and raiding Minnesotans’ pockets for more money does not represent leadership on the part of the Legislature.
Rep. Sandy Wollschlager, DFL-Cannon Falls, favored the bill.
“The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce came forward with changes we could accept and as a result we passed a bill,” she said Thursday night. “Today we made some important changes in our state’s transportation policy and passed a balanced approach to fund our transportation system.”
Rep. Bernie Lieder, a Crookston DFLer who authored the House bill, dismissed opponents’ claims the bill was too big and cost Minnesota taxpayers too much.
He said the bill was needed because state lawmakers for the past two decades have “abdicated” their responsibility to adequately fund transportation.