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Minnesota House okays 20-cent-per-gallon gas tax hike, Senate leader plans to block it

Minnesota Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, speaks to supporters of a gasoline tax increase, which has been proposed to fund road and bridge repairs at a rally at the state Capitol on Friday, April 26.

ST. PAUL -- A proposal to hike Minnesota's tax on gasoline took a step forward Monday, April 29, in the state Capitol.

The Minnesota House of Representatives on a 74-58 vote approved a plan to phase in a 20-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase over the next four years as part of the body's $7.2 billion transportation spending plan.

The approval came after Republican lawmakers offered several amendments that would've made the gas tax optional or put the increase before voters on the 2020 ballot. Democrats supported the measure and said it was needed to fund repairs to roads and bridges.

"We have a bill that will move our state forward in significant ways," Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, said. "It’s time for big thinking, it’s time to be visionary, it’s time to be bold, it’s time to make a generational investment."

Republicans said the tax increase was the wrong approach and would be too much for Minnesota drivers and business owners to bear.

“This gas tax is incredibly punitive to these people who just work hard, and you’re going to make it even harder on them,” Rep. Jim Nash, R-Waconia, said. “You’re going to drive them out of the market.”

The DFL proposal largely mirrors Gov. Tim Walz's plan in that it phases in a 20-cent-per-gallon sales tax on gasoline. The funds would be used to fund road and bridge repairs.

The plan would also raise vehicle license tab fees for newer cars and designate funds collected from a $75 fee for electric vehicles to be used for building out state infrastructure for electric vehicles. Vehicles 11 years old and older would see a reduction in their tab fees.

The House proposal would also increase the motor vehicle sales tax and those living in the seven-county Twin Cities metro area could see their sales tax hiked by half a cent to boost funding for transit. And while Walz's plan didn't offer additional help to cities smaller than 5,000 people, the DFL plan would provide designated funding for the first time.

“It’s absolutely essential that we have long-term, sustainable transportation funding before we leave the building in May,” House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said.

Walz reissued his support for the proposal Monday, while Senate Republicans, who hold a majority in that chamber, said it would be a non-starter.

"We're not going to do a gas tax. I've made it very clear that that's not a direction we're going to go," Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, told reporters.

House and Senate lawmakers are set to come together to iron out differences in their proposed transportation spending bills in coming days.