Transportation Committee chairs named; stage set for funding debate

The results of the 2018 elections will bring a new look to the conversation about how to fund Minnesota’s transportation system.

On the campaign trail, Governor-elect Tim Walz repeatedly reiterated his support for increasing the gas tax, as well as being open to other fee increases. His party, the DFL, also won the majority in the State House of Representatives. Just before Thanksgiving, the House DFL announced that Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis) will serve as chair of the House Transportation Finance & Policy Committee. As many Highway 14 members will recall, Rep. Hornstein previously served as Transportation Chair, including during the 2013-14 legislative session when the Corridors of Commerce program was first created and funded.

Rep. Hornstein will likely join Governor-elect Tim Walz in pushing for a transportation funding package that includes some combination of increased taxes and fees. That said, the State Senate still remains narrowly in GOP control, and it was announced that Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson) will continue to serve as Senate Transportation Chair. For his part, Sen. Newman has been consistently opposed to increasing the gas tax. In fact, he authored a blog post in which he reiterated that he would not support increasing the gas tax. Instead, Sen. Newman said he would support re-directing existing revenues derived from the state’s general sales tax to fund roads and bridges.

Walz ran on a platform of collaboration and reaching across the aisle. With bi-partisan agreement that transportation will be a priority this session, but disagreement over how to get it done, this subject will provide an early test for Walz’s ability to work with the Legislature to accomplish big goals. The Highway 14 Partnership will directly engage in the discussion about transportation funding to ensure that vital programs like Corridors of Commerce continue to be funded sufficiently to achieve our goal of expanding to four lanes all the way from Rochester to New Ulm.

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