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Trucking Industry Wants Bigger Loads? - Then Pay More For Roads

Category: Transportation
Posted: 02/16/15 12:23

by Dave Mindeman

This session has promised to debate our need for transportation dollars. Both parties agree, but differ on amount and extent.

But it seems a little counterproductive to watch a bill that would increase the maximum truck load from 80,000 to 97,000 pounds weave its way through the legislature.

The bill has bipartisan support and could very well pass this session.

My question is - why is increasing loads on trucks moving faster than a comprehensive transportation package to fix and maintain the roads they ride on?

The trucking industry sees no problem here...

"We have not found any evidence these trucks are causing any additional damage to roads, and we have not seen any evidence these trucks are any less safe than current trucks that are on the road," Fred Corrigan with the Aggregate and Ready Mix Association of Minnesota said.

Mr. Corrigan, please, it seems to me you have not looked.

With just one quick search, I found this from North Carolina:

Increasing a truck's weight to 90,000 pounds results in a 42 percent increase in road wear. Pavement designed to last 20 years wears out in seven.

Yes, an increase in load limit would make trucking somewhat more efficient and probably reduce the number of hauls. So, obviously, companies paying for those hauls will save money.

So, if the bigger loads are going to increase wear and tear on our roads, then why don't the people making extra money pay more of the taxes?

How is this bill not part of a broader transportation package that would get increased maintenance revenue from each pound over the current 80,000 pound limit?

Is there not any logic to this?
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The MN GOP House Transportation Dilemma

Category: Transportation
Posted: 02/01/15 16:47

by Dave Mindeman

Lori Sturdevant had an interesting analysis of the House GOP dilemma on transportation.

Here was her take on Rep. Tim Kelly's (the transportation chair) response to Gov. Dayton's proposal on transportation:

Kelly didn't blast Dayton's plan. He dribbled. He voiced uncertainty about Dayton's numbers. He fretted that the governor was introducing new complexity with a proposed gross receipts tax on wholesale motor fuels. He noted that achieving bipartisan deals requires much negotiation. He said that he and the new House GOP majority would need "time to do this responsibly" -- more time than will be available during the current legislative session, which must end May 18.

I pose this as a dilemma for the House Republicans because they have decided to label themselves as the Party of Greater Minnesota. And Greater Minnesota wants roads and bridges fixed. The first reaction from the House GOP was to meet that demand for fixing roads and bridges by siphoning money off the budget surplus and cutbacks in transit. But the reality of that situation is that it still would not be enough to meet the need.

When Governor Pawlenty was the chief executive, transportation took a back seat to everything. It was a casualty of the no new taxes pledge. It was a victim of budget intransigence. It was lost in a government that refused to have a vision of the future.

Now, they are victims of their own talking points. They can still refuse to raise taxes, but if that is the case, the end game will leave transportation shortchanged once more. And Greater Minnesota will be left wondering what kind of representation they are being offered.

The Chamber of Commerce is trying to give the House an out. They have introduced a new revenue term - the Value Capture User Fee..which is essentially a property tax increase on properties that would be enhanced by transportation improvements.

Nobody really knows how that would be implemented, who would decide, or what kind of real money it can generate - and how consistently that revenue would flow.

Right now, it looks like more of a distraction than a real entity. But we shall see how far this moves.

Right now, Republicans are desperate for that out, because the need has finally caught up with the Republican refusal to acknowledge the need.

The pressure is officially on.
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House GOP Thinks Transportation Funds Are Monopoly Money

Category: Transportation
Posted: 01/27/15 10:19, Edited: 01/27/15 10:22

by Dave Mindeman

There is a very strong annoying truth about Minnesota transportation. Fixing roads and bridges cost money. Republicans and Democrats tend to agree on that, but where the money comes from has a divergence from reality. At least with one of the parties.

Governor Dayton proposed a very reasonable and overdue transportation package yesterday. It had a huge spending component - which we need - and it had a method to pay for it - increased user taxes (I could use the word fees, but we all know it is the same thing, even when Gov. Pawlenty tries to draw a distinction).

The taxes, of course, drew the ire of the Republican controlled House. They wailed and moaned about the "burden" on Minnesota taxpayers. How it was all so unnecessary. Now, they were not denying the need for the transportation spending - and they didn't even argue much about the spending figures being totally off base. Of course, they themselves couldn't possibly go along with such exorbitant spending and taxes. No - no - uh, uh.

Dayton proposed raising taxes on wholesale gas to pay for the roads and bridges that the cars buying that gas would have to use. He also proposed hiking car license fees. Again, fees on cars that use the roads. And he also proposed a hike in the metro sales tax for transit. Metro taxes for metro use. Not greater Minnesota. Fair, fair, and fair.

What the House Republicans have offered is vastly different. They have a multi-year proposal that is basically one time money taken from other sources, and the surplus (which really isn't even enough to cover one year's worth of need) and patch it. Like a patch on a flat tire. It doesn't fix anything, it just gets you back to where you started.

Its funny, but transportation needs don't go backwards. The older roads and bridges get, the more fixing they need and the more expensive it gets to do it. You can "patch" it all, but the need is still there. It may cost more to do it right, but it will also last longer and be less of a burden to future budgets. And because the needs are ongoing, you also need stable revenue streams. A flow of user taxes that continue without year after year revisits. A budgetary source that allows MNDOT to plan and make the necessary expenditures.

And as for transit - Dayton is willing to concede that transit is more of a metro issue than for outstate Minnesota. And he has always expected the seven county metro to pay its own way when it comes to the revenues for transit. But House Republicans want to play the versus game. It is greater Minnesota vs. the Metro. Don't let the Metro get transit revenue - give all of it to roads and bridges in outstate Minnesota, where "our" constituents live.

The issue isn't a versus problem. It is a community problem. We need to do both - to walk and chew gum - to fix and build. That is why Dayton's proposal is correct. He looks at the needs of the state as a whole - he doesn't look for trade-offs.

House Republicans continue this farcical meme that "greater Minnesota" is being shortchanged by the Democrats. Even though it is Republicans that block and cut LGA, block health care for rural hospitals, block broadband upgrades, and allow property taxes to increases for farmers and small businesses.....and yes, they have blocked past attempts to fix roads and bridges all over the state.

We need to make a dramatic move in transportation. For greater Minnesota, for suburban Minnesota, for the Metro....for everyone in this state. Dayton has proposed a comprehensive plan. And if we want to keep this great state economy going, then we need to make sure the means to transport those goods and services is capable of handling the job.

I'm not sure what kind of future the House Republicans are looking at. Sometimes I think they never look more than one political cycle ahead. It is all about winning the next election - and not really about greater Minnesota or anyone else in this state.

Transportation costs money. The Dayton proposal pays for it. Make it happen.
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