Duluth editorial pans Dayton transportation package

The Duluth News Tribune is the first newspaper out of the gate with an editorial panning Gov. Dayton’s transportation proposal, which includes raising the metro sales tax, increasing the license tab fees, and adding a gas tax.

In an editorial published today, the News Tribune editorial asks if there’s another way to cover the cost of fixing roads, bridges, and transit other than fees and taxes? But it doesn’t identify an area of the budget to be cut.

But before we scream “uncle!” as a sign of surrender, how about this? How about cutting from the state’s existing budget to cover at least some of the cost of keeping up with transportation needs, as legislative Republicans have suggested? Couldn’t we at least look if there’s some cutting that could be done to free up a bit of cash? More than 30 states pay for bridge and highway repairs from their general funds, recognizing that a safe and efficient transportation system is a core responsibility of government. Minnesota doesn’t.

Or how about using some of the state’s $1 billion surplus to eat into the transportation funding gap? Yes, much of the surplus — if not all of it, according to experts — will be eaten up by inflation. But can’t we at least check before taxing and only taxing?

Dayton seems to have tunnel vision when it comes to taxes and tax increases. On Tuesday, as a followup to Monday’s transportation proposal, he indicated he wants to to collect and spend more than $40 billion from state taxpayers in the next two years. In addition to transportation, his proposed budget would increase funding for things that really are worthy, even if we struggle to pay for them, things like early-childhood education, child care, adult human services, the University of Minnesota and more.

The editorial acknowledges that taxes will probably be required, but asks why taxes alone need to be used?

What else is there? The editorial didn’t say. But let’s offer two additional ideas (a) an increase in transit fares and (b) toll roads and bridges, such as the new St. Croix River bridge near Bayport, which could capture money from Wisconsin residents who don’t contribute a fair share toward the upkeep of the roads they use.