Minnesota Democrats want to raise the gas tax amid soaring prices

Nearly two-thirds of Minnesotans oppose a gas tax increase, with many of them considering themselves "strongly" opposed.

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Despite the high cost of fuel, Minnesota Democrats are angling to increase the gas tax in an effort to lower carbon emissions and blunt the impact of “climate change.”

According to a Star Tribune report, state Rep. Frank Hornstein and one of his colleagues joined dozens of Minnesotans at a United Nations conference on climate change in Glasgow, Scotland, last month.

At the conference Hornstein spoke about various policies he’d like to implement to cut carbon emissions: incentivizing citizens to purchase electric cars, subsidizing the installation of charging stations, allocating more funds for “green” transit vehicles and bike lanes, and increasing the gas tax.

“Hornstein hasn’t given up on the notion of a boost in Minnesota’s original carbon tax — the highway-dedicated gas tax,” the Star Tribune reports. “Though he knows it’s projected to be a declining source of revenue as electric vehicle sales increase (‘I hope so!’ he said), it still pays for road improvements, freeing other funds for climate-related measures.”

According to the Center of the American Experiment, a gas tax increase would disproportionately affect low-income and rural Minnesotans.

“These Minnesotans will be hurt the most because they pay the highest share of their income on their energy bills. Residents of Greater Minnesota also have to drive further to get to work, the grocery store, or go shopping for school supplies,” explains policy fellow Isaac Orr. “This is less of a problem in Hornstein’s densely populated Minneapolis district, but it is a cruel tax on rural Minnesotans for zero impact on future global temperatures.”

The Star Tribune mentions that transportation emits more carbon than electricity and agriculture, that the Midwest emits more greenhouse gases than every other major area in the United States, and that Minnesota has a lower gas tax than states like Idaho, Iowa, and Utah.

But Orr points out that a 100% elimination of Minnesota’s carbon emissions would only reduce the global temperature by 0.00095 degrees Celsius by 2100.

“Rep. Hortstein’s statements are alarming because they are divorced from the energy reality that we live in. Because he does not understand that the challenges to reducing emissions are technical and not political, he is willing to endorse rising gas taxes that will harm all Minnesota families, especially those who can least afford it, for absolutely zero measurable impact on future global temperatures,” he writes.

The administration of Gov. Tim Walz has pushed for a gas tax increase in the past. In October 2019 his Department of Transportation commissioner, Margaret Anderson-Kelliher, attempted to frame an increase as a “debt service fee.”

It is estimated that nearly two-thirds of Minnesotans oppose a gas tax increase, with many of them considering themselves “strongly” opposed.

In May 2019 the Minnesota House approved a 20-cent gas tax increase in an omnibus transportation package, but the Republican-controlled Senate removed the provision and passed an amended version of the bill.