Torkelson opposes gas tax hike

ST. PAUL — State Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) voiced opposition Thursday to Gov.Mark Dayton’s recently released budget recommendations that include what he called significant increases to a variety of transportation fees.

Torkelson, Chairman of the Transportation Finance Committee, said he opposed a minimum gasoline tax increase of 16 cents per gallon proposed by Dayton.

The governor’s proposed $1.4 billion transportation tax increase over the next two years included increasing license tab fees, new license and title surcharges, a Metro area sales tax, and more.

“Increased tab fees and gas taxes put an extra unneeded financial burden on constituents at every income level,” Torkelson said. “The governor has some expectations that we’re considering, but we just don’t believe that raising taxes and fees so substantially in a year where we have a surplus is the way to go.”

Dayton said the money is needed to fund a backlog of road and bridge projects.

Torkelson said Dayton’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018-19 has too much spending and unnecessary tax increases. Dayton proposed a $45.8 billion budget over the next two year budget cycle. Minnesota is spending $41.5 billion on state government during the current budget cycle, according to a Torkelson press release.

“It was really no surprise as much of this budget was brought forward last time,” Torkelson said. “But a ten percent increase in state government is almost unbelievable, especially when you consider the economy isn’t growing at anywhere near that rate.”

Earlier in the week, Torkelson said the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s (MnDOT) new ditch mowing requirements are not needed.

New requirements include applying for a permit to mow and bale ditch hay in a state right-of-way. Other new requirements include forcing tractor drivers to wear a colored safety vest when they mow and equipping tractors with flashing lights.

“There’s no reason to not give adjacent landowners some control over how their ditches are maintained,” Torkelson said. “Farmers are actually doing a great service to MnDOT by mowing ditches on their own. If they didn’t, ditches would be full of noxious weeds and the transportation department would be forced to spend substantially to maintain them.”

Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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