Minnesota Transportation Funding (General)

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MNdible
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Re: State transportation financing and tax reform

Postby MNdible » May 20th, 2013, 8:44 am

mplsjaromir wrote:You mean when David Greene said he was personally advocating for transit at the capital? He stated he was involved all year and asked forum readers to believe him. That has to be what you meant.
Am I missing something? Why is it so hard to believe that somebody might invest their time advocating for a cause they feel is important? I don't know the guy from Adam, but I don't see what he would have to gain by lying about that.

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Re: State transportation financing and tax reform

Postby RailBaronYarr » May 20th, 2013, 8:47 am

So, just a question, somewhat related.. I'm no conspiracy theorist, and I recognize there are genuine reasons that supply was cut due to 2 refineries going down in the midwest. But does anyone else think it's odd that while the MN legislators are debating increasing the gas tax again, gas prices skyrocket in Minnesota while surrounding states are seemingly unaffected by the hike in price? Maybe I'm not fully aware of where IA, WI, SD, and ND get their gas from, but it would seem odd that we're in an island. The quote by mullen "do you really think a gas tax increase, with prices currently up to 4.50 a gallon and up was going to pass the full legisltaure?" would seem to support that super-high gas prices NOW are causing people to shift in their seats a little at making it even more expensive. Just a thought, and please help me if I misunderstand regional oil prices.

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Re: State transportation financing and tax reform

Postby FISHMANPET » May 20th, 2013, 8:54 am

I know each state requires its own blend, so they can't necessarily ship gas from surrounding states to MN. Also, it takes time for the refinery to switch formulas, so it would take them a little while to spin up production of MN gas.

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Re: State transportation financing and tax reform

Postby mister.shoes » May 20th, 2013, 9:00 am

ND has jumped as well. I just traveled to/from Dickinson over the weekend. My VW requires Premium and 91 Octane just west of Mandan was $4.71. Regular was still in the $4.1x range, FWIW. My father said that they spiked over the last week, just like we did.

I'm more curious as to why two refineries were shut down for what sounds like routine maintenance just as the summer driving season was about to commence.
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Re: State transportation financing and tax reform

Postby David Greene » May 20th, 2013, 9:01 am

mullen wrote:uhuh...you've been involved eh. why you don't you run for office. go tell rep Horstein and senator Dibble, both representing minneapolis that were was stiff oppostition from mpls for dedicated transit funding. you're full of crap.

do you know how a bill gets passed? do you really think a gas tax increase, with prices currently up to 4.50 a gallon and up was going to pass the full legisltaure? keep pissing on the city. that seems to be your agenda.
Wow. Ok, calm down. There was stiff opposition from Loeffler, Mullery and Davnie. Davnie finally changed his mind after hearing from many constituents. Loeffler and Mullery, not so much.

Scott and Frank represent me so I am very well aware of the huge amount of effort they've put into securing funding for transit, long before they ever took seats the capitol. But Scott and Frank do not control the Minneapolis delegation. Thissen leads the whole House DFL caucus. He could have used his weight to push transportation funding through. He didn't even try.

The problem with the gas tax was not the legislature, primarily, it was Dayton. He painted himself into a corner on that before the session even started. But I do blame legislative leaders for not pushing him on it. If they'd passed a bill, there's no way Dayton would have vetoed it.

The reason I'm focused on Minneapolis is that these are the very legislators that should be leading the way on transit. I don't expect a DFLer from Winona to pull that cart. I DO expect a Minneapolis delegation that has members in critical power positions to do something to improve transportation in the city and throughout the state. Don't you?

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Re: State transportation financing and tax reform

Postby Andrew_F » May 20th, 2013, 9:25 am

RailBaronYarr wrote:So, just a question, somewhat related.. I'm no conspiracy theorist, and I recognize there are genuine reasons that supply was cut due to 2 refineries going down in the midwest. But does anyone else think it's odd that while the MN legislators are debating increasing the gas tax again, gas prices skyrocket in Minnesota while surrounding states are seemingly unaffected by the hike in price? Maybe I'm not fully aware of where IA, WI, SD, and ND get their gas from, but it would seem odd that we're in an island. The quote by mullen "do you really think a gas tax increase, with prices currently up to 4.50 a gallon and up was going to pass the full legisltaure?" would seem to support that super-high gas prices NOW are causing people to shift in their seats a little at making it even more expensive. Just a thought, and please help me if I misunderstand regional oil prices.
I saw $4.17-4.39 this weekend in WI. It's not just MN.

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Re: State transportation financing and tax reform

Postby FISHMANPET » May 20th, 2013, 9:27 am

David Greene wrote:
mullen wrote:uhuh...you've been involved eh. why you don't you run for office. go tell rep Horstein and senator Dibble, both representing minneapolis that were was stiff oppostition from mpls for dedicated transit funding. you're full of crap.

do you know how a bill gets passed? do you really think a gas tax increase, with prices currently up to 4.50 a gallon and up was going to pass the full legisltaure? keep pissing on the city. that seems to be your agenda.
Wow. Ok, calm down. There was stiff opposition from Loeffler, Mullery and Davnie. Davnie finally changed his mind after hearing from many constituents. Loeffler and Mullery, not so much.

Scott and Frank represent me so I am very well aware of the huge amount of effort they've put into securing funding for transit, long before they ever took seats the capitol. But Scott and Frank do not control the Minneapolis delegation. Thissen leads the whole House DFL caucus. He could have used his weight to push transportation funding through. He didn't even try.

The problem with the gas tax was not the legislature, primarily, it was Dayton. He painted himself into a corner on that before the session even started. But I do blame legislative leaders for not pushing him on it. If they'd passed a bill, there's no way Dayton would have vetoed it.

The reason I'm focused on Minneapolis is that these are the very legislators that should be leading the way on transit. I don't expect a DFLer from Winona to pull that cart. I DO expect a Minneapolis delegation that has members in critical power positions to do something to improve transportation in the city and throughout the state. Don't you?
Loeffler is my senator. Is there any kind of proof that she wasn't willing to play ball or is it the kind of thing where you had to be there? I'd like contact her, but I don't want to go in half cocked not knowing what happened before I accuse her of anything.

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Re: State transportation financing and tax reform

Postby David Greene » May 20th, 2013, 9:47 am

FISHMANPET wrote:Loeffler is my senator. Is there any kind of proof that she wasn't willing to play ball or is it the kind of thing where you had to be there? I'd like contact her, but I don't want to go in half cocked not knowing what happened before I accuse her of anything.
I assume you mean Rep. :) Kari Dziedzic is your Senator. I don't actually know how she was on the bill. Probably not a big player since she's not on the transportation committee and is a newcomer.

Here's what I know. Loeffler was dead-set against a sales tax dedicated to transit. From what I understand her reasoning is that she thought it was regressive. Many people tried to explain to her that a sales tax dedicated to a service that has a direct benefit to low-income people is not the same as a general sales tax that could go to anything.

We don't have very many taxes dedicated to things that help low-income people. I can think of one: the existing transit sales tax. I've talked to a lot of low-income people over a decade of transit work. They all support a sales tax for transit. Not once have I heard any low-income person state opposition to the idea.

We had action alerts go out in her district. I'm kind of surprised you didn't get one. Are you a member of TLC, the Sierra Club or another organization that worked on transit this year?

I don't have all of the details about how things went down over the weekend but by that point it was too late anyway.

I would definitely give her a call. Tell her you're very disappointed about her opposition and that you hope she will work toward passage of a sales tax dedicated to transit next year. It's not going to be helpful to yell at her, but make sure she knows you're watching.

Thanks!

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Re: State transportation financing and tax reform

Postby FISHMANPET » May 20th, 2013, 9:54 am

Ah snap, you're right. Dziedzic is Senate, Loeffler is house. And actually I'm in 60B so Kahn is my house Rep, but I'm in a Facebook group for SD60 so maybe I can get some people in 60A to call Diane.

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Re: State transportation financing and tax reform

Postby David Greene » May 20th, 2013, 10:03 am

FISHMANPET wrote:Ah snap, you're right. Dziedzic is Senate, Loeffler is house. And actually I'm in 60B so Kahn is my house Rep, but I'm in a Facebook group for SD60 so maybe I can get some people in 60A to call Diane.
Ah, would explain why you didn't get the action alert. :)

Thanks for helping out with the accountability. If we're going to convince the legislature to do something next year, we have to start the accountability now.

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Re: State transportation financing and tax reform

Postby David Greene » May 20th, 2013, 10:13 am

David Greene wrote:From what I understand her reasoning is that she thought it was regressive.
There are a couple of other opposition points Minneapolis legislators brought up. I don't know whether Loeffler shared them or not but would not be surprised if she did.

- Why should the metro pay for its own transit AND subsidize roads in Greater MN?

- Dedicating revenue is a bad idea. We don't dedicate it for schools, why should we do so for transit?

I have a bit of sympathy for the first point of view, but it is simply political and economic reality. The metro is where the money is. Hausman tried to push the idea of a statewide sales tax for transit but that's DOA. In the end she knows when to back off and support politically realistic options.

As for the dedication issue, there are a couple of things I would say to that.

One, transportation projects (especially transit) take DECADES to implement. It's simply not possible to do that kind of planning when you have to guess at your budget every two years. You might argue the same is true of education. But rather than take the scarcity approach of defunding transit, why not implement a dedicated source for education?

Two, we're competing with many other regions for very scarce federal dollars. FTA will not commit money to projects that don't have funding in place. A sales tax provides the stable funding that FTA wants to see.

To the regressivity argument, I point out that transit has taken *real cuts* over the years. Not just reductions in increases, actual cuts. Fare increases and service cuts are far more regressive than a small sales tax increase spread over a very large population.

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Re: State transportation financing and tax reform

Postby ECtransplant » May 20th, 2013, 2:35 pm

mullen wrote: do you really think a gas tax increase, with prices currently up to 4.50 a gallon and up was going to pass the full legisltaure? keep pissing on the city. that seems to be your agenda.

The higher the gas price, the less people driving. The less people driving, the better for Minneapolis.

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Re: State transportation financing and tax reform

Postby twincitizen » May 20th, 2013, 2:40 pm

David-- I know we've had rather strong disagreements about SWLRT routing, but I just wanted to say thanks for fighting the good fight for increased transit funding. I sent a note to Speaker Thissen a few days back about missing the opportunity of a generation. I find it extremely unlikely that either the House or the Governor will take this up again in the 2014 election year. I'm sure they'll try like hell to jam the bonding bill full of transit as a consolation prize, but it will never have the impact that a dedicated sales tax would have. Unless a miracle were to occur in the next few hours before they adjourn, it seems that 2015 is the soonest we'll be talking about transit sales tax or sales tax reform again. And that's only if the DFL retains a House majority and the Governorship. How the hell can Thissen and Erin Murphy not get their people in line on this?

Although the gas tax may have become even more unfeasible with the "recent unpleasantness", in addition to lack of support from Dayton, what better time could there be to go all-in on transit than when gas prices are well over $4.00? Now is the PERFECT time to sell this to the public.

That said, I too am weary of having the highest sales tax in the nation. We really needed that sales tax reform to get nailed down first. A reduction from 6.875% to 5.5% statewide, then adding the .75% transit back in (plus .15% Twins and .5% CC/Stadium) would have put us at 6.9% in Minneapolis (down from 7.775% currently) and 6.4% in the rest of Hennepin County. Subtract .15% from those figures for St. Paul and Ramsey County rates, respectively.

Paying sales tax on clothing is not the big deal people make it out to be, especially with a rebate/credit for the poor and exemption on used items. People are just averse to change.

Meanwhile, we're dicking around with forcing day care providers to unionize and giving legislators pay raises. Both of those policies undoubtedly have lower public support than transit taxes.

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Re: State transportation financing and tax reform

Postby talindsay » May 20th, 2013, 3:50 pm

Gas in Fargo was up at $4.35 when I was there for the marathon this weekend. Now, since I was there in my VW Sportwagen turbodiesel I only spent $3.85 a gallon on diesel and got 52 mpg on my way there and 49 mpg on my way home so I didn't care that the prices on gas were up, but it definitely is not just MN.

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Re: State transportation financing and tax reform

Postby MNdible » May 20th, 2013, 3:58 pm

According to this map, though, it is mostly just Minnesota.

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Re: State transportation financing and tax reform

Postby David Greene » May 20th, 2013, 4:10 pm

twincitizen wrote:David-- I know we've had rather strong disagreements about SWLRT routing, but I just wanted to say thanks for fighting the good fight for increased transit funding.
Thanks for the kind words! We certainly can disagree civilly on implementation but we all agree (I think) that we need a lot more transit in the TC metro, and pronto.
twincitizen wrote:I sent a note to Speaker Thissen a few days back about missing the opportunity of a generation. I find it extremely unlikely that either the House or the Governor will take this up again in the 2014 election year. I'm sure they'll try like hell to jam the bonding bill full of transit as a consolation prize, but it will never have the impact that a dedicated sales tax would have. Unless a miracle were to occur in the next few hours before they adjourn, it seems that 2015 is the soonest we'll be talking about transit sales tax or sales tax reform again. And that's only if the DFL retains a House majority and the Governorship. How the hell can Thissen and Erin Murphy not get their people in line on this?
Yep, frustrating, ain't it.
twincitizen wrote:That said, I too am weary of having the highest sales tax in the nation. We really needed that sales tax reform to get nailed down first.
Totally agree on the sales tax thing. We are LONG overdue for reform. Commissioner Franz lays out the case for it very well. Services now exceed goods in terms of consumer spending. We've got to update our tax structure to reflect the current economic reality.

Of course, the sneaky part of me wants to pass the sales tax for transit *first* so that we get a higher rate that's then boosted by sales tax reform down the road.

But don't tell anyone I said so. :)

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Re: State transportation financing and tax reform

Postby mattaudio » May 20th, 2013, 4:17 pm

Looking on the bright side of the failure of a bonding bill this year, we saved $60.3 million from being wasted on regional convention centers.

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Re: State transportation financing and tax reform

Postby MNdible » May 20th, 2013, 7:56 pm

mattaudio wrote:Looking on the bright side of the failure of a bonding bill this year, we saved $60.3 million from being wasted on regional convention centers.
We delayed it. These things are coming back next year, as sure as the sun rises.

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Re: State transportation financing and tax reform

Postby woofner » May 20th, 2013, 10:51 pm

David Greene wrote:
twincitizen wrote:That said, I too am weary of having the highest sales tax in the nation. We really needed that sales tax reform to get nailed down first.
Totally agree on the sales tax thing. We are LONG overdue for reform.
Uh you guys know why our sales tax is among the highest in the nation right? The whole thing about how it excludes essentials like clothing and food? You know, the stuff that the poorest spend a higher percentage of their income on than the rest of the population? What were you saying about a transit sales tax helping poor people?

As I think I said earlier in this thread, I completely agree with those who say that the sales tax is a terrible method of financing transit. The general fund, the ultimate source of bonding funds, is a much better method, so really the outcome of this session was not bad, just not good [edit: in relation to transit, anyway; the improvement in the progressiveness of state taxes, the marriage equality bill, and the dream act were great achievements]. By the way, the reason a transit sales tax won't be discussed next session is because budgetary issues are handled on a biennial schedule, and unlike the bonding bill there is no incentive to abrogate that schedule. Hopefully that break will allow them to come up with a better method for dedicated transit financing, such as property or payroll taxes. Or, dare we dream, a competitive and holistic financing method for all modes of transportation.
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Re: State transportation financing and tax reform

Postby David Greene » May 21st, 2013, 7:21 am

redisciple wrote: Uh you guys know why our sales tax is among the highest in the nation right? The whole thing about how it excludes essentials like clothing and food? You know, the stuff that the poorest spend a higher percentage of their income on than the rest of the population?
Actually, studies show that extending the sales tax to clothing makes it more progressive, not less.

What's more important is extending it to services. That starts to bring in money from lawyers and other high-priced services used primarily by the wealthy.

The simple economic reality is that consumer spending has shifted from goods to services. One of the reasons we have chronic deficits is that the sales tax is not bringing in what it used to.
redisciple wrote: What were you saying about a transit sales tax helping poor people?
A sales tax dedicated to a service poor people depend on helps poor people. No?
redisciple wrote: As I think I said earlier in this thread, I completely agree with those who say that the sales tax is a terrible method of financing transit. The general fund, the ultimate source of bonding funds, is a much better method, so really the outcome of this session was not bad, just not good
This is the kind of thinking that keeps our transit system from progressing. We don't live in the ivory tower. We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Show me politically how to ensure reliable, adequate transit funding from the general fund and I'll be all for it. We've tried that experiment for 50 years and it's been an abject failure.

Property taxes are highly regressive and more importantly, people are literally abandoning houses because they can't afford the taxes anymore. That stream is tapped out. We'd never get an income tax dedicated to transit past the legislature. Bonding can't fund transit operations.

Believe me, many people have looked at many different ways of funding transit in our state. The sales tax is the only viable solution.
redisciple wrote: By the way, the reason a transit sales tax won't be discussed next session is because budgetary issues are handled on a biennial schedule, and unlike the bonding bill there is no incentive to abrogate that schedule.
The legislature can do whatever it wants. The biennial schedule is simply a framework. It gets ignored all the time. The legislature will act IF we push them to do so.


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