Back in 2008, a DFL-controlled legislature passed the last gas tax increase in Minnesota, then overrode former Governor Pawlenty's veto with the assistance of a handful of Republican votes. One factor in passing the increase was support for more revenue from the state's ag sector.
There's some movement in this direction in 2017, although the Minnesota Farm Bureau appears to be set against a gas tax increase, according to a statement on its website.
Governor Dayton's budget proposal includes a 6.5 percent gas tax hike, the Star Tribune's Erin Golden reported in Dayton focuses on school, roads, health care in budget plan.
While Farm Bureau may have dug in its boots, late in January, Brownfield Ag News' Mark Dorenkamp reported in Minnesota Corn Growers vote to raise gas tax:
During their annual meeting at the Minnesota Ag Expo in Mankato this week, the Minnesota Corn Growers passed a resolution supporting a gas tax increase of 10 cents per gallon.
Government relations chair Bruce Peterson of Northfield says the hope is it bolsters the chances of getting a transportation bill through the Legislature.
“(we) Feel like that needs to be part of the puzzle with passing a transportation package. In order to do that, we may have to raise the gas tax. Certainly that’s all part of the equation, but maybe part of the solution as far as getting something passed.”
The Minnesota gas tax is currently just over 28 cents per gallon.
Peterson says farmers like him need more dollars set aside to keep up with the state’s aging roads and bridges.
“We’ve got more corn moving year-round with all the ethanol plants, and just more commerce in general. Being we’re in this northern climate, the roads just aren’t holding up. And it seems like we keep falling further and further behind. Also the cost to maintain these roads keeps increasing rapidly.”
State Representative Jeanne Poppe says transportation funding is discussed regularly at the statehouse, and having a group like the Minnesota Corn Growers support a gas tax increase definitely puts it on the list of solutions.
Since the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association also meets in Mankato during Minnesota Ag Expo, Bluestem was curious if the bean farmers had considered the issue as well (many are members of both groups, given the corn-bean rotations many Minnesota farm producers follow).
A look at the group's website drew a blank, so we emailed our query to MSGA Director of Public Affairs Joe Smentek. His reply:
The Minnesota Soybean Growers Association has passed a resolution that states we "support an increase in the gas tax by up to 10 cents to create a dedicated source of transportation funding."
At our day on the hill today we mentioned our support of an increase in fuel taxes to support transportation funding.
In a phone interview, Minnesota Farmer Union Legislative Director Thom Petersen said that the MFU policy supports an increase but the organization didn't cite a specific amount, unlike the commodity producer groups. Agrinews reported in early January that "MFU strongly supports working to create adequate funding to support Minnesota roads and bridges.”
If rural Republican lawmakers claim that there's no support for a gas tax increase in Greater Minnesota, they're not being entirely accurate with those claims. Imagine that.
Photo: A grain truck and wagon. Transportation infrastructure helps corn and soybean growers haul their inputs and harvests around, and they aren't afraid to pay for it.
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