MPR's Than Tibbetts has helped News Cut out by putting the state's current gasoline price picture into some perspective. In the aftermath of the gas tax bill veto override, a few gas station owners -- mostly in border communities -- wondered whether they'd lose customers to the competition in the nearby states.
We wondered, too. And now we're wondering why they're wondering.
With few exceptions (one county in Iowa), the average price of gasoline in every Minnesota border county is less than the average price in the county across the border. In a few of those cross-border counties, you can actually see where the price of the "other state's" gas has been lowered slightly, presumably to stay as low (comparatively speaking, of course) as the Minnesota stations.
Than added the full 2008 gas tax increase -- 5 cents -- and found that there still is no competitive disadvantage for the Minnesota gas stations, even assuming the other states' stations don't raise their prices. The maps appear to support the conclusion that prices are slightly lower in other states, only along the Minnesota border, because Minnesota's prices are lower in general.
As I pointed out this morning, the verbal opposition to the gas tax seems more pointed in the Twin Cities than "outstate." Oddly, the Twin Cities have much cheaper gasoline prices than greater Minnesota does.
Some might say that bringing Minnesota up to the same gas tax standars as the border states is a great thing. I disagree. Minnesotans should be proud to know that our state government has fought to keep the burden of taxes low for the people. Yesterday, when the MN Legislature passed the gas tax bill, my heart dropped. It doesn't make sense to me to think that by putting a larger burden on the people, during an increasingly sluggish economy, will solve the state's road and bridge funding problem (if there really is a problem). Sure a bridge fell down but it's commonly known that an out of State engineering consult recommended, a year before the bridge tragedy, replacing the truss plates that failed and caused the collapse. Nothing was done. Raising taxes, and throwing money at a problem is not a solution. All it does it takes money away from the people. I think changes are needed in our transportation program. I'm not an expert, so I can't go into specifics, but I am certain that there are budget reallocations that can be made to MNDOT and all other departments. Reallocations that can free up the money needed to make road and bridge repairs.
Taxing the people and throwing money at the beaucracy is the wrong path to be heading down. Minnesotans were taxed reasonably low but with the victory of the gas tax bill, and the lost tax revenue from the various large companies leaving MN, we are just going to become another "one of those states."
Thanks for writing, Jered. Maybe it's a good time to take the "tax" issue out for a second, and the "roads and bridges" issue out and think about a vision for what Minnesota should be (oh, and take the politics out too, as long as we're dreaming big dreams here).
What is it that makes Minnesota different than those states. In other words, aside from maybe someone was born here, is there something about Minnesota that makes people choose it over South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa or North Dakota?
What is that now? What should that be in the future?