House passes roads bill that doesn’t raise gas tax

The Minnesota House passed a transportation funding bill Friday that uses existing sales tax revenue to pay for road and bridge projects.

Lawmakers voted 76-54 for the bill, which also borrows $1 billion over four years and imposes a new surcharge on electric vehicles.

House Republicans, who oppose a gas tax increase, want to instead capture $450 million over two years from the sales tax on auto parts, auto repairs, car rentals and vehicle leases.

Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, chair of the House transportation committee, said using the sales tax is “absolutely appropriate” for a statewide priority.

“There are 32 states and the District of Columbia that use general revenue funds to fund transportation in their states," he said. "I don’t see any reason why Minnesota can’t make it a priority too. Transportation should be at the table for its share of funding, whatever the source is.”

House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, accused Republicans of not being serious about passing a bipartisan transportation plan.

“There’s been absolutely zero effort to engage with Democrats to seriously put together a transportation bill that we can all get behind, that would provide sustainable, reliable funding that’s constitutionally dedicated to transportation.”

Several DFL lawmakers also noted the bill cuts money for Metro Transit. The Metropolitan Council says the cut would amount to $122 million and would result in a 40 percent service cut.

Torkelson said he looked forward to working with DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and his staff on the transit issue when the bill goes to a conference committee.

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