With respect, I would like to provide a response to Sen. Andrew Lang’s and Rep. Tim Miller’s views on transportation funding. The West Central Tribune reported on the Renville County Board meeting at which the legislators discussed transportation funding. The article appeared in the June 24 edition.
If you believe, as most Minnesotans believe, our roads are crumbling, our bridges are unsafe and gridlock on major roads is too common, then we must find a way to pay for transportation improvements. As the song says, “nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’.”
Funding transportation in Minnesota is complex. There are several sources of funds, including: tax on motor vehicle sales, license fees, sales tax on auto parts, sales tax on vehicle leases, and yes -– a motor vehicle fuel tax (gas tax).
The distribution of these funds is even more complex. Each source of the above mentioned funding has strict criteria for how it is spent. Some of the criteria are dictated by statute (law), and some by our state constitution. The most reliable funding for roads is that which is dictated by our constitution. The gas tax is one of those funding sources in which the constitution declares how this money is spent.
Article XIV of the constitution provides that money raised by the motor vehicle fuel tax (gas tax) must be used for roads and bridges. There are a couple of very minor and reasonable exceptions. The first 5 percent of the money raised goes into a fund that is set aside for town roads, bridges and realignment of jurisdictions (turning a state road over to county or turning a county road over to city or town). This is of great benefit to outstate Minnesota. The second exception is that the gas tax collected from gas used in boats, ATVs and snowmobiles, be turned over to the DNR. This is only fair and reasonable.
The formula which dictates how gas tax is used does not put outstate Minnesota at a disadvantage over the metro. Gas tax money cannot be used for bike lanes, buses, light rail, and even rural transit, which provides transportation to rural folks who cannot drive themselves to doctor visits and the grocery store. The gas tax must be used for roads and bridges. This is dictated by Article XIV of the Minnesota Constitution.
The Highway User Tax Distribution formula provides that the gas tax collected be distributed in the following manner:
Sixty-two percent goes to trunk highways. These are Minnesota highways. Highways 23, 9, 7 and 212 are examples of Minnesota trunk highways. And to be fair, there are trunk highways in the seven-county metro area, so they too will receive some of these funds.
Twenty-nine percent of the gas tax goes to County State-Aid Highways. Typically these roads have low numbers - Kandiyohi County Roads 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 and 27, to name a few in this area. And again, the metro also has county roads.
The remaining 9 percent is allocated to the Municipal State-Aid Street Fund for cities with greater than 5,000 in population.
One can argue about the size of the gas tax increase proposed by Gov. Tim Walz. But there is no question that outstate Minnesota would benefit from the Walz proposal. In an analysis conducted by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, using the road miles and the Highway User Tax Distribution formula, this region would receive an increase -– per year -– of over $8.75 million in transportation funding.
House District 17A (Rep. Miller), including, Renville, Swift and Chippewa Counties, four townships in Kandiyohi County and the city of Montevideo, would receive an increase of $5,491,053 per year. House District 17B (Rep. Dave Baker), comprised of the remainder of Kandiyohi County and the city of Willmar, would receive an increase of $3,270,143 per year. Combined, Senate District 17 (Sen. Lang) would receive an increase in transportation funding of $8,761,196 each year.
The Association of Minnesota Counties is made up of all 87 counties in the state. For the past several years, increased sustainable transportation funding has been the No. 1 priority with the Minnesota Legislature. Please work to get this done.
Commissioner Roger Imdieke can be reached at Roger.Imdieke@co.kandiyohi.mn.us. He represents District 4 on the Kandiyohi County Board.