News from the Minnesota House Transportation Committee earlier this month was a bit of a surprise to me, as the House majority unveiled a budget plan that would raise taxes and fees in numerous areas, including the tax on gasoline.
That House Democrats wanted to raise taxes on anything isn’t a surprise. But as the Republican Lead on the transportation committee, I am usually privy to the bills being heard in committee and have an idea of what is being considered.
The reality is we have passed our second committee deadline, meaning bills that haven’t received a committee debate by the deadline cannot be considered by the House moving forward. Yet, when the transportation omnibus finance bill was unveiled this week, it contained several provisions that were not even in proper bill form, much less received a single formal hearing.
The proposal contains more than $1.5 billion in tax and fee hikes over four years, including a $363 million gas tax increase, a $916 million sales tax increase (without voter approval) to fund light rail and other transit, a $120 million Motor Vehicle Sales Tax increase, a $149 million registration tax increase, and a luxury vehicle registration tax increase. Also added: funding for additional passenger rail to Milwaukee/Chicago.
These tax increases would be in addition to the $1.6 billion surplus that Minnesota has already collected and remains after all state expenses have been paid.
Yes, committee hearings can be boring, they can be cumbersome, but it’s a process that must be followed if you want to have any semblance of transparency at the Legislature. Committee chairs do have a great deal of latitude in preparing their bills, but unveiling a transportation budget bill loaded with legislation that didn’t receive one minute of committee debate sends a bad message to the public. It’s simply not good government.
Once again, House Democrats have proven that their relentless appetite to increase taxes will never be satisfied. At a time when Minnesotans are still trying to recover from the economic devastation caused by COVID-19, Democrats believe the time is right to raise taxes on gasoline, the sales tax for transit and the sales of motor vehicles sales. These tax increases will hit Minnesotans of every income level, including the poorest of the poor.
Minnesota already has a $1.6 billion budget surplus and will soon have billions of dollars more arriving from Washington; it is irresponsible to propose tax increases at this time. Instead, we should be leveraging our surplus and prioritizing the federal dollars to make the best investments for the future.