Dayton forces DFL to reconsider gas tax hike

Gov. Mark Dayton
Gov. Dayton reacts to news of the improved budget shortfall forecast Feb. 28, 2013 at the state Capitol in St. Paul, Minn.
MPR photo/Mark Zdechlik

The chairs of the House and Senate Transportation committees are redrafting their budget bills after Governor Dayton repeated his opposition to a gas tax increase. Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, says they are reworking the bill after Dayton's comments earlier in the day.

"We knew the governor had concerns but now we know he has significant concerns and we'll work with him," he said.

Hornstein and Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, have said that they want to increase the state gas tax to pay for additional road and bridge projects throughout Minnesota. They scheduled a news conference to discuss the proposal for the early afternoon, but they scrapped it after Dayton told reporters earlier this morning that he wasn't interested.

"I don't support a gas tax," Dayton told reporters. "I don't think the people of Minnesota are prepared to support it and that's the critical consideration."

Dayton has opposed a gas tax hike in the past, but Hornstein said some DFL legislators had hoped they could convince him to back it now.

Hornstein said he isn't backing off his plan to find more money for transportation projects.

"We need more revenue in the system," Hornstein said. "It's critical for the economy. We want a robust transportation bill coming out but we want everyone on the same page."

Hornstein didn't offer too many specifics but said new financing options include a sales tax on fuel consumption. He said a mileage tax is off the table and toll roads are highly unlikely.

Hornstein added that increasing the sales tax in the Twin Cities area for transit projects is unlikely unless there's new money for roads and bridges across Minnesota. Dayton has indicated he supports the so-called transit tax.