Gas tax to be debated againST. PAUL — Expect the gasoline tax debate earlier this year to be relived before the Nov. 4 election.
By: Don Davis, The Republican Eagle
ST. PAUL — Expect the gasoline tax debate earlier this year to be relived before the Nov. 4 election.
Minnesota House candidates from both major political parties plan to discuss the issue as they campaign this fall.
House Republican leader Marty Seifert of Marshall on Tuesday trotted out dozens of his party’s House candidates, promising they would remind voters that Democrats raised fuel taxes.
While Seifert said his candidates would not attack Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party candidates’ personally, the GOP will go after incumbent Democrats’ records.
To that, House Majority Leader Tony Sertich of Chisholm said with four state bridges shut down recently, Minnesotans understand money is needed to improve roads and bridges.
“Something needs to be done,” he said, including improving rural roads on which hundreds of people die every year.
Motorists understand a small gasoline tax increase is not the driving force behind today’s $4-a-gallon gasoline, he added.
“Minnesotans can see who is jacking up their gas costs,” Sertich said.
While energy issues appear to be near the top of most candidates’ priority lists, some Republicans who gathered on the Capitol steps said voters in their areas are not bringing up the tax issue, although most do complain about gasoline prices overall.
“Everybody has to drive,” said Bonnie Wilhelm of Willmar, who will try to unseat Rep. Al Juhnke for a third time. A community like Willmar, a regional center, especially depends upon motorists, she said.
Former Rep. Doug Lindgren of Bagley, who lost to Brita Sailer four years ago, said he hears complaints about the tax increase. Right behind the tax as an issue in his area is the gas price itself, he added.
Paul Anderson, a Republican seeking to replace retiring GOP Rep. Bud Heidgerken of Freeport, could have voted for the gas tax increase. The Starbuck farmer and Pope County commissioner said he understands the state needs to get more transportation money.
The debate over the gas tax was a highlight of this year’s legislative session, with six Republicans joining all House Democrats in overriding Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of the tax. Heidgerken was among those “override six.”
Seifert took away leadership duties from the six who voted to override the GOP governor.
Anderson said he sometimes wonders what Seifert would do if he did as Heidgerken and went against the party line. But, Anderson added, he would serve the people of the district before the party.
While Seifert said Republicans would remind voters about the gas tax increase, he also said there has to be a statue of limitations and he would consider members of the “override six” for leadership positions again.
Seifert’s GOP candidates include more than 30 women — a record for Republicans. He also said there would be four or five minority candidates.
Seifert said having a controversial figure like Al Franken as the DFL’s U.S. Senate candidate could help Republicans.
Sertich, on the other hand, said legislative politics is local and voters do not consider statewide races in picking those candidates.
Sertich and Seifert agreed that about 30 races statewide should be competitive. House Democrats now hold a 85-49 edge over Republicans.
Federal, state and county candidates have until Tuesday to file paperwork to run for office.