Sparks votes against Senate transportation bill; Local senator opposed gas tax increase

Published 10:09 am Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Though the DFL-controlled Minnesota Senate passed a transportation budget bill Monday, Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, was one of two Democrats to vote against the proposal.



Sparks said he had heard from many small business owners who opposed the gasoline tax included in the bill, which influenced his decision to vote according to the wishes of his district.

“We all agree there’s a need for transportation and now we have to come to a compromise in moving our state forward,” he said.

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The plan would raise more than $6 billion for infrastructure repairs by adding a 6 1/2-percent wholesale tax on gas sales and hiking license tab fees, which Sparks said was a little too high for border communities in Minnesota. It also funds mass transit projects with a sales tax hike in the seven-county metropolitan area.

Senate lawmakers voted 36-27 for a transportation budget bill Monday. Sparks, John Hoffman, DFL-Champlin, and all Republicans voted against it.

Gov. Mark Dayton favors the Senate’s approach but it’s vastly different from the Republican-controlled House’s plan. House GOP lawmakers aim to tap the state’s budget surplus and reroute existing tax revenue to pay for infrastructure projects.

Signature pieces of the Senate tax plan include:

— A new, up-to-$2,500 tax credit per veteran that businesses hire.

— An expansion of an education expense tax credit.

— Creation of a tax credit meant to spur workforce housing development in Greater Minnesota.

— A more-generous relief program for homeowners and farmers who see property tax spikes from year to year.

— A break in the statewide business property tax.

The bill also drives up allowances for city and county governments in hopes that local leaders won’t need to rely as heavily on property taxes going forward.

By comparison, the House tax proposal would offer an array of new income tax credits and exemptions as well as steeply cut property tax rates for businesses.

Some of the income tax breaks in the House plan are temporary while the business breaks would carry forward and grow in size.

House and Senate negotiators will spend the next few weeks trying to find a compromise.

The Associated Press and Austin Daily Herald