MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Minnesota House of Representatives passed a 20 cent per gallon gas tax increase Monday that would be phased in over the next four years, but Republican senators are already saying the increase is a non-starter when it gets to the Senate.
The House transportation bill, which includes the gas tax hike, passed the House Monday evening with a 74-58 vote, but it will likely stall out in the Republican-controlled Senate.
“It’s absolutely essential that we have a long-term, sustainable transportation funding before we leave the building in May,” House Speaker Melissa Hortman said. “The needs are obvious on the system. All you have to do is get in your car and go somewhere. It’s clear we have underfunded transportation.”
Hortman says the 20-cent increase needs to be considered differently.
“We are talking about a nickel a year for four years,” Hortman said. “When I talk to people about a nickel a year for four years, they understand that it is a very reasonable request.”
Republicans argue the sharp gas tax increase is fundamentally unfair because it has a larger impact on lower-income drivers.
“That is one of a number of taxes that would hurt the middle class and low income. We are not going to do a gas tax,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said.
Gov. Tim Walz also continues to argue the increase is needed because the state’s deteriorating roads and bridges are putting lives at risk. While the Governor has left the door open to a possible compromise on the gas tax amount, Republicans are slamming the door.
Sen. Gazelka said there is no chance of compromise.
“We have a bill that would lower the gas tax by 20 cents. If we compromise between the 20 cents up and the 20 cents down, we are at a perfect spot,” Gazelka said.
While the bill passed the House, there is a complete roadblock in the Senate.
There are only three weeks left in the session and this is one of a number of major bills that show a huge gap between the Democratic House and Republican Senate, raising serious questions on how the legislature is going to avoid a special session.