Gas tax hike headed to Senate floorby Brian Bakst, Associated Press
St. Paul, Minn. — (AP) - A bill that would lift Minnesota's gas tax by a dime a gallon is headed for a Senate floor vote on Friday after a last-ditch attempt in committee to shave the increase to a nickel.
The gas tax is part of a bulky road and transit construction plan that would raise license tab fees and give counties authority to levy other vehicle taxes. The Senate Taxes Committee gave the bill its final touch-ups Thursday.
Committee Chairman Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, tried to replace the 10-cent tax with a nickel, saying Minnesotans aren't ready for such a steep increase to the existing 20-cent-a-gallon tax.
"I don't see much point in sending a dime to the governor," Bakk said. "A nickel is a more reasonable approach."
Bakk's move failed on a lopsided voice vote, but it reflected the difficulty his fellow Democrats will have getting the bill enacted into law.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty has said he'll veto any size of a gas tax increase. If Pawlenty follows through on his threat, it would take 90 House votes and 45 Senate votes to overrule him.
Bakk said a smaller bump could lure in enough Republicans for an override. He said the Legislature has "no chance" to override Pawlenty on a dime-a-gallon increase.
Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, doesn't expect any Republicans to back the bill in Friday's vote.
The bill's sponsor, DFL Sen. Steve Murphy of Red Wing, said his entire proposal would increase the tax burden for a typical family of four by $550 a year while pumping $13 billion into transportation projects over a decade. He said it would help Minnesota tackle a backlog of needed road upgrades.
"We're trying to scale Mt. Everest here. You can't do that if you don't have the proper gear," Murphy said. "We need to buy more concrete, more steel, more transit."
The House is due to vote Saturday on a similar transportation bill, which contains a 10-cent increase in the gas tax.
House Minority Leader Marty Seifert said the package may draw some GOP support but ultimately not enough for a veto override.
"Even if it would pass with 90 votes, the veto is going to be sustained," Seifert said.
Both bills would link the tax to an inflation index, meaning it would rise automatically in future years.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)