Transportation funding a main topic of legislative session, Edina town hall

Edina legislators Sen. Melisa Franzen, left, Rep. Ron Erhardt, center, and Rep. Paul Rosenthal, right, responded to questions from Edina residents during a town hall meeting Saturday, Jan. 10, at Edina City Hall. (Sun Current photo by Paul Groessel)
Edina legislators Sen. Melisa Franzen, left, Rep. Ron Erhardt, center, and Rep. Paul Rosenthal, right, responded to questions from Edina residents during a town hall meeting Saturday, Jan. 10, at Edina City Hall. (Sun Current photo by Paul Groessel)

 

Transit funding was one of the main topics of discussion during a town hall meeting with Minnesota District 49 state legislators on Saturday, Jan. 10.

Sen. Melisa Franzen, D-Edina, hosted the meeting. She and Edina Representatives Paul Rosenthal, D-49B, and Ron Erhardt, D-49A, fielded questions from Edina residents.

The 2015 Minnesota legislative session is a budgeting year – not a bonding year – and transportation funding has been a focus early in the session. The state Legislature has a $1 billion surplus. Accounting for inflation, that surplus is actually $300 million.

To bolster funding for long-term transportation projects, Gov. Mark Dayton proposed a gas tax and fee hikes that could increase $6 billion over 10 years, while the Republican Majority in the Minnesota House issued a plan last week that called for new taxes or fees to raise transportation funding.

During the town hall meeting, the Edina legislators discussed the issue but did not provide specific stances on funding mechanisms.

After hearing the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and business leaders oppose Gov. Mark Dayton’s gas tax and fee increases, Rep. Rosenthal said he would not comment on what he specifically supports, but added there is a need to invest in transit.

“It’s going to take businesses’ (input),” he said. “It’s going to take your input, it’s going to take legislative input to make sure that our transportation, infrastructure and (transit) lines are not only funded but addressed with the urgent need that we have in this area right now. … Whether it’s a gas tax or increase in sales tax, I don’t know.”

Franzen did not address her stance on a gas tax or transit funding mechanism, either.

“We would like some more funding for roads, bridges and transit,” she said. “So that’s why I want your input on the transit tax, and as soon as I have a better idea of the gas tax proposals, I’ll also put that out for you so I can get your input.”

The current gas tax, the Minnesota Fuel Excise Tax Rates and Fees, is 28 cents per gallon. Rosenthal noted that as vehicles become more fuel efficient, the tax revenue decreases, even if fuel prices increase.

“The amount does not increase with the price of fuel,” Rosenthal said.

Contact Paul Groessel at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent.