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Lawmakers Debate Over How to Fund Minnesota's Roads and Bridges Continues

April 22, 2019 08:00 PM

(ABC 6 News)-- Across Minnesota, snow has given way to what lies beneath; cracked roads, riddled with potholes.

Right now, extra scrutiny is being focused on the road infrastructure.

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“Our members travel a lot,” said Lucas Franco, the Research Manager of the Laborers’ International Union of America (LiUNA) for Minnesota & North Dakota. “This year has been particularly bad with a real uptick in potholes and we just really sort of see our system breaking down.”

Franco says the road conditions are becoming a financial burden on drivers. “The estimate that's out there is that is costs us over $1,000 per year in gas, lost time and car repairs due to the wear and tear on our vehicles based on the current system,” he said. “We pride ourselves in Minnesota on really leading the way on a lot of rankings and outcomes. The last thing we want is another I-35 bridge collapse where the nation sees Minnesota as sort of the poster child for failing infrastructure.”

In order to maintain our current roads and bridges, MnDOT estimates the state needs to contribute an extra $18 billion over the next 20 years; on top of the current revenue.

However, deciding on how to address the funding gap is where lawmakers differ.

Early in the legislative session, DFL Governor Tim Walz proposed raising the gas tax by 20¢ a gallon. It would be the first gas tax increase in more than 10 years.

“Minnesotan's are concerned, gas has gone up 40¢, 50¢ as the refineries shut down for maintenance,” Gov. Walz told us in a special interview before his State of the State address. “It impacts families, but none of those [dollars] went into jobs here, none of those went into better roads here. All of that went to the oil companies.”

“We are really supportive of Governor Walz' vision,” said Franco. “So this 20¢ increase is really kind of a ‘user fee’. When we use our system, we pitch in a little bit to make sure the system is sufficiently funded.”

On the other side of the aisle, some Republican lawmakers are taking a different stance.

“We have our farmers, etcetera,” said Representative Daune Quam (District 25A). “That 20¢ a gallon -- which is index to inflation which is constantly going up -- that's going to hurt our farmers more.”

“We do have the billion dollar surplus and we do need to be open to the fact -- and have this discussion -- of retaining that diversity of the transportation funding dollars that I think we had as a good, solid down payment on forward-thinking, long-term funding for our transportation dollars,” said Representative Nels Pierson (26B).

This month, the House and Senate moved in different directions.

The Democratic-controlled House released a $7 billion two-year Transportation bill that includes the Governor’s gas tax.

In the Republican-controlled Senate, the Transportation Committee rejected the gas hike.

Credits

Hannah Tiede

Copyright 2019 - KAAL-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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