ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Gov. Mark Dayton says his bid for a gas tax increase for road projects likely is “dead” given an ample state budget surplus.

The Democratic governor’s concession Thursday came as finance officials predicted a nearly $1.9 billion budget surplus, with some of that earmarked for rainy-day accounts. Dayton has pushed to hike the state’s fuel tax to provide a steady stream of money for road and bridge construction but that hasn’t gone far in the Legislature.

Dayton says it could be an issue ripe for voters in a referendum. He says he’s open to diverting some existing auto taxes to a transportation fund as long as it doesn’t pierce too big of a hole in the general treasury.

Transportation is expected to be a major focus in the 2016 session.

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