How is the "lights on" nothingburger of a transportation budget bill playing in Greater Minnesota?
Not so well if the experience of freshman state representative Bob Vogel (R-Elko New Market) at a meeting of the Le Sueur County commissioners is any indication.
At the LeCenter Leader, Suzanne Rook reports in Le Sueur commissioners press legislator on failure to bolster transportation funding:
While first-term legislator Bob Vogel reminded commissioners that his limited experience at the state House equaled a lack of political pull, the county board didn't hesitate to press the Elko New Market Republican. . . .
But perhaps Administrator Darrell Pettis hit Vogel hardest, pointing out that despite identified needs, a plan to increase state transportation funding never made it to the governor.
"Almost all our debt deals with roads. Our resources are just getting us there," he said, then asked "What's the solution?"
But Pettis didn't stop there, asking why when the House talked about $7 billion in roads funding and the Senate discussed an $11 billion package, nothing happened.
"Seven billion and 11 billion are really big numbers. But zero is a really small number," he said, adding that Le Sueur County's hands are tied.
Even if it were to approve a half-cent sales tax increase dedicated to roads, it wouldn't go it very far, Pettis said. Scott County, which approved the tax increase last month, is expected to pull in about $6 million annually, while the administrator estimated Le Sueur County would see less than $800,000 if it OK'd the sales tax.
Vogel, a former Scott County commissioner, empathized with the county's plight, but stood firm in his opposition to an increase in the state's gas tax and said money being spent on light rail in the metro is taking dollars away from road projects.
"My feeling is we need to figure out a way to do it with the existing revenue streams we have," he said. "We can't keep taxing our way out of this."
It's a fascinating perspective: not wanting to raise the gas tax, while claiming light rail robs road projects.
Indeed, since the Minnesota constitution dedicates the gas tax to roads and bridges (not light rail), and Bob doesn't like light rail, we would think he'd be in favor of higher gas taxes.
But no: raising revenue to pay for things we need is a no-go for the freshman legislator, who wants to stick with an inadequate revenue stream. Go figure.
Photo: Freshman Representative Bob Vogel, via House Information Services.
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