House transportation bill clears first hurdle

The House transportation committee approved a $7 billion transportation funding bill Monday by a 13-8 vote, with one Democrat voting in favor.

The bill shifts existing taxes to a new transportation fund and borrows billions more over the coming years to pay for road and bridge projects.

Committee Chair Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, said the House strategy avoids raising taxes on gasoline, as Gov Mark Dayton and Senate Democrats are proposing.

"Whether we're using the sales tax on auto parts, lease vehicle rental tax, or tax on rental cars themselves, all those things normally go into the general fund," Kelly said. "We're piling all those things together and they go into the transportation stability fund."

Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL- Minneapolis, said that the Republican-backed bill relies too much on moving money from one pot to another.

“It’s a house of cards because we are shifting money from existing state expenses," said Hornstein. "We’re shifting money from educating our kids, from nursing homes, from environmental protection and we’re taking it to transportation.”

The House bill also provides much less for mass transit than the governor's plan, which would boost the sales tax in the metro area to fund transit projects.

Hornstein did successfully amend the bill to increase the fine for texting while driving to nearly $300 for a second offense.

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