Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A thought about taxing for the bridge 

After the initial emotional reaction of some Republicans to increase the gas tax to pay for the bridge, it appears some have come back to reason.
I just got off of the phone with Gary Gross, who incidentally just got off of the horn with State Representative Steve Gottwalt. Gross stated, when asked about the probability of a special session, Mr. Gottwalt replied, "God, I hope not!"

There appears to be a substantial number of Republican lawmakers who are seeing the call for raising the state gas tax to be what it is-- an opportunistic ploy by DFL lawmakers to ramrod a political agenda by exploiting a tragedy that had absolutely nothing to do with either the presence of or absence of a tax increase. While they certainly see the need to prioritize and ensure the safety of bridges and other infrastructure, they are likewise acknowledging that the answer lies not in an additional burden on Minnesota taxpayers, but rather on a good, old-fashioned prioritization of allocation of resources.
The DFL has already made clear that once brought to a special session they will not limit their actions to funding the bridge. Senator Tarryl Clark was cited in the Saturday paper as arguing that a special session would include restoration of local government aid. Relevance to the bridge = 0. Captain Ed and others have spent time looking at where the transportation dollars are spent; it's disheartening to see that the tragedy is used by both our U.S. Senators to call for expedited monies to go to Northstar, which would not be ready before the bridge is replaced according to current estimates. All around, behavior towards this has been opportunistic.

Here's another example of this, from Saint Paulicy:
SPicy has learned that last week, as part of the 4th Annual Tom Bakk Golf Scramble, there was a "caucus-like" meeting of elected DFL'ers. One of the issues apparently on the clubhouse table was the probable special session and what should be on the agenda.

...SPicy has been told that as legislators discussed the special session, State Senator Mee Moua found it time to make a dramatic announcement. If Saint Paul does not get $18 million � the full amount that was originally in the formula for the city � than Saint Paul does not want a special session.
So you want these people to come back? I'm with Rep. Gottwalt: God, I hope not.

Here's a thought: Do we not keep a reserve in this state? Why yes, yes we do. A billion dollars, in fact. What is the purpose of a reserve, if not to be used to meet unexpected expenses? If you're not going to use a rainy day fund for a bridge collapse, why have it? Pay for it from reserves, and then let the next Legislature replenish the money from the entire budget, not just from a gas tax. Pawlenty can do this without resort to a special session.

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