A year ago Gov. Mark Dayton set up an advisory panel to study the long term needs of Minnesota's transportation system. It is an issue that has needed a lot of study - for years now, the revenue raised through the gasoline tax and other travel-related fees has fallen far short of what is needed to repair, maintain and improve the state's roads and bridges. The state Department of Transportation has had to fund only the most high-priority projects. Pushing road and bridge repairs down the road, for want of a better clich, only assures that little jobs will turn into bigger, more costly jobs.
The panel came up with its recommendations on Friday, and as one would expect, the options are costly. The panel set up a couple of plans for raising the gasoline tax revenue by $15 billion over the next 20 years. One plan calls for a 10-cent-per-gallon the first year, then 1.56 cent increase per year over the next 19 years. The other plan calls for 3.5 cents more per gallon in each of the first five years, then 1.5 cents more over the next 15.
We know nobody likes the idea of tax increases. But we all want safe roads and bridges, too.
The panel's recommendations give the Legislature and the governor a good starting point for talks on transportation funding in the year ahead. It is a big problem, and it is going to take a big solution.