Transportation Omnibus Bills Move Forward

The Senate Transportation Omnibus Policy (S.F. 1647) and Finance (S.F. 1904) bills moved forward this week. The bills modify existing policy provisions and seek to increase dedicated and sustained funding for Minnesota’s transportation network. The Finance bill went to the Committee on Taxes and the Policy bill moved to the floor.

Transportation Policy Bill

This bill consists of numerous agency and member provisions, many of which passed out of committee with little controversy. This package consists of many local issues, agency priorities, and other updates and reforms. This includes rail safety, reforms and updates to current statute, various changes in regulations to road usage, and other local priorities.

Transportation Finance Bill

The Transportation Finance Bill raises new, sustained, and dedicated funding to invest in Minnesota’s transportation network.

The bill is a comprehensive and honest funding plan that dedicates new funding without shifts or gimmicks to maintain our existing network, invest in priority projects, and expand transit options to make our communities more livable for everyone. Additionally, the bill funds much needed safety improvements and upgrades to the state’s rail network as increased demand and pressure has sharply increased freight rail volume.

Some highlights of the Finance Bill:

  • Gross Receipts Tax of 6.5% at the wholesale level constitutionally dedicated to the Highway User Tax Distribution Fund – raising approximately $787 million over the biennium.
  • Vehicle Registration Tax increase to 1.5% while increasing the base tax to $20 in 2018 while adding a late fee to $25 a month capped at $100 – raising approximately $195 million over the biennium.
  • Metro Transit Sales Tax increase from ¼ cent to 1 cent sales tax in 5 metro counties – raising approximately $599 million over the biennium.
  • Additional fees raising approximately $128 million over the biennium.
  • This increased funding will allow the state to take on more bonding capacity, allowing an additional $800 million for the Corridors of Commerce program over the next four years, while allowing increased Trunk Highway Bonding.
  • An additional $200 million for Transportation and Economic Development (TED) bonding.
  • The bill invests $32.5 million annually to make safety upgrades and improvements to the state’s existing rail network where crude oil and other hazardous materials are transported and creates an Office of Rail Safety at MnDOT.
  • “Driver’s License for All” allowing undocumented individuals to obtain a Minnesota driving license.

The bill addresses long-term transportation funding without taking money from other priorities, and will help the state create a 21st century transportation network that supports the growing demands of our aging transportation network.

The House plan relies on general fund shifts and gimmicks that put other priorities like early education, services for our state’s most vulnerable citizens, and efforts to keep tuition costs low for students at jeopardy.

An amendment was added to the bill in the Committee on Taxes Friday. The amendment expands the 1 cent metro sales tax to all seven metro counties, including Scott and Carver. The amendment includes an opt-out option of the tax increase that must be done by June 15, 2015, if four county boards vote to opt-out. However if fewer than four boards decide to opt-out, the tax is imposed across the seven county metro area.

Senate DFL Media