While some regional chambers are voicing support for raising new revenue to pay for transportation upgrades, the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce is standing firm in its opposition to such a move.
Six regional chambers of commerce sent a letter to legislative leaders yesterday urging lawmakers to boost revenue to fund highway and transit upgrades in the state.
"Investment in transportation is critical to Minnesota’s competitiveness, so we also support an increase in revenue that allows us to properly plan and build a transportation system that will ensure regional competitiveness, vitality and economic growth in our state," the letter states.
Chambers signing on include three in Greater Minnesota — Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater Mankato Growth and the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce. But Rochester's chamber — the second largest one in the state — takes the position the state should be able to find money for transportation given the state's $1.9 billion surplus.
Julie Fiesel, the chamber's government affairs director, said the chamber supports increased funding for transportation and expects lawmakers to allocate more money for roads using current resources. But Fiesel said there's no reason lawmakers can't do that with existing revenue.
"We do not believe that more taxes are the answers. Minnesota already ranks in the top 10 states for taxes and our members have largely indicated that is not the way they want to go," Fiesel said.
She added that members are also strongly opposed to any sort of a gas tax increase. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Senate Democrats are backing proposals that would impose a 6.5 percent per gallon tax on gas at the wholesale level. That would amount to at least a 16 cent-per-gallon increase at the pump.
The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce's position aligns with that of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, which opposes any transportation-related tax hikes
House Republicans have put forward a $7 billion transportation plan that relies on existing revenue and borrowing. Dayton and the DFL-led Senate have put forward $11 billion transportation plans that include tax hikes. It remains to be seen whether legislative leaders and the governor can come to agreement on a transportation funding package.
Click here to Download Transportation funding letter