ST. PAUL - The unveiling of the Minnesota House's Transportation Omnibus bill, which would have a contained a gas tax hike bill to assist transportation corridors like Highway 14, was pushed back after Gov. Mark Dayton expressed opposition to any gas tax during a press conference on Monday.
Dayton's statement that he opposed raising the gas tax but he felt more money is needed for highways occurred during separate press conferences about his proposed project for the bonding bill.
"I don't support a gas tax," said Dayton, "I don't think the people of Minnesota are prepared to support it and that's a critical consideration."
The presentation of the Transportation Finance omnibus bill was subsequently delayed until Wednesday.
Legislators, including House Transportation Finance Chair Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis), told reporters that they had planned to try and convince Dayton to accept select gas tax bills and were surprised by his strong opposition on Monday.
A bill, authored by Hornstein, proposed including 5-cent hike in the gas tax to help finance work on "corridors of commerce" like the Highway 14 four-lane expansion project.
Hornstein told sources involved with the Highway 14 project that he and fellow legislators will meet with Dayton prior to Wednesday to determine an alternate funding source the governor could support. Hornstein also indicated he hopes to move ahead with his "corridors of commerce" bill, but he will now need to find alternate funding sources.
The concept of finding additional funding for Minnesota's transportation system has received extra attention this legislative session, but no idea has yet emerged without major issues. Increasing the gas tax is being criticized as less effective as drivers choose more fuel efficient vehicles. A proposal to switch to taxing mileage of Minnesota drivers is still far from having the technology to implement it, and recent test runs of potential systems produced many errors. Most of the other miscellaneous proposals have been criticized for generating too few revenues to be effective.
Dayton has been an important advocate for the four-lane expansion of Highway 14, and he was almost single-handedly instrumental last year in guaranteeing the portion of Highway 14 from North Mankato to Nicollet be completed by 2018.
The Transportation Finance omnibus bill will be introduced on Wednesday morning in the Minnesota House Transportation Finance committee and Wednesday afternoon in the Minnesota Senate Transportation and Public Safety Division committee.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at email@example.com)