Transportation tax proposal looks at wholesaler fee

The Senate Transportation Finance Committee approved a spending bill Wednesday that would change the way the state collects the gas tax to pay for roads and bridges.

The nearly $5.8 billion measure, which was approved by a vote of 11-4, would lower the tax consumers pay at the pump by around six cents, and then add a 5.5 percent fee to oil wholesalers.

Committee chairman Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said in light of Gov. Mark Dayton's opposition to raising the gas tax, the measure has a good chance of becoming law.

"This introduces an element of reform to our motor fuel tax regimen and it raises a little bit of additional money for highways and bridges and roads across the state of Minnesota," Dibble said.

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Dibble's bill would also increase a transit-dedicated sales tax on metro counties by a half cent, and boost funding for outstate transit by about $20 million.

"This is a comprehensive transportation bill. It takes care of transit and mobility in the metro area. It takes care of transit and mobility across the entire state of Minnesota and it has strong support in the committee and along the path so I think it helps move the conversation along quite significantly," he said.

The House transportation bill would allow all Minnesota counties to impose an optional half-cent sales tax and a $10 annual vehicle registration fee.

Advocates, construction workers and others rallied at the Capitol on Wednesday, calling on lawmakers to spend more money on roads and transit.

"Not doing anything about transportation this session is going to hurt the state's economy," said Margaret Donohoe, executive director of the Minnesota Transportation Alliance. "A lot of folks want jobs they need to show something show the public that we are making progress on."

The Minnesota Transportation Alliance organized the rally at the Capitol.

Minneapolis carpenter Sam Heimlich with Local 322 said he's concerned about safety on Twin Cities roads. He said more money for transportation would also mean more jobs for the state of Minnesota.

"We all need this. It's so obvious to anybody and for myself traveling a great distance to work each day it's sometimes frightening to even do and I'm a construction worker," Heimlich said. "The potholes are ginormous and sometimes truthfully the lanes are too small and there's a lot of accidents."