With a record $17 billion budget surplus at their disposal, Democrats are now considering a gas tax increase with just days to go in the legislative session.
Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, told the Minnesota Reformer Wednesday that an increase in the state’s 28.5-cent per gallon tax is on the table.
“There’s conversation but we haven’t made any decisions,” said Hornstein, chair of the transportation conference committee.
He said any increase “would be small” and would help fill Minnesota’s projected $17.7 billion shortfall for repairing roads and bridges, the Reformer reported.
Democrats have also proposed a new delivery fee on most retail goods and a metro-wide sales tax increase to help fund transportation needs. However, there are significant disagreements between the House and Senate DFL caucuses on these two proposals that will need to be worked out in conference committee.
Gov. Tim Walz said he is open to a gas tax increase, arguing that it would provide “dedicated, long-term” funding whereas the surplus is “one-time” money, KSTP reported.
He acknowledged that gas tax increases hit “the poorest the hardest” but said Minnesotans would “understand.”
House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, urged Democrats to immediately drop the idea.
“Democrats’ fixation on raising taxes on everyday Minnesotans has to stop. We have a $17.5 billion surplus — tax increases of any kind should be off the table, but especially these regressive taxes that hurt lower income Minnesotans the most,” she said.
The gas tax increase was not included in any bills that passed off the floor this session. In a memo this week, Republicans said the majority is breaking House rules by adding provisions to bills during conference committee meetings that never received a hearing and weren’t included in any bills passed by the House or Senate.
“While we know Democrats have been itching to raise the gas tax for years now — with Gov. Walz being one of the most vocal proponents of it — no Minnesotan will ‘understand’ why this is necessary at a time when we have a record surplus,” Demuth added.