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Janell Cole and Don Davis, Published September 10 2007

Survey shows gas tax support

Those who support a gasoline tax increase say a State Fair survey shows Minnesotans as a whole do, too.

“The poll demonstrates again that Minnesotans understand that when it comes to important issues like transportation, you get what you pay for,” said Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar. “Because the gas tax is constitutionally dedicated to pay for roads and bridges, people know that money is going to be used to build better and safer roads and bridges.”

A House survey showed 58 percent of those polled would back a dime-a-gallon gas tax increase. A Senate survey indicated 24 percent would do likewise, but 40 percent would support some combination of a gas tax and other revenue raisers.

However, the survey is not scientific and was slanted heavily Democratic, the party that mostly supports a gas tax increase. Senate figures show more than twice as many Democrats took the survey as Republicans. The surveys were conducted in adjoining booths in the back of the Education Building, and fair-goers had to wade through a number of other government- and education-related booths before getting a ballot.

The surveys were conducted during the height of publicity about a potential special legislative session that would have provided more funding for state roads and bridges.

Lucky break

One key Minnesota lawmaker probably is quietly happy that a Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party proposal to hold a special legislative session on Tuesday fell flat.

Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, was one of five Senate leaders who worked on a proposal to bring lawmakers back to St. Paul for a one- or two-day session this week. But that most likely would have meant those leaders would have met throughout the weekend working out details.

That would have been a problem. Langseth and his wife, Lorraine, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Saturday, complete with many of his wife’s relatives visiting from Montana.

“I’d like to make it to 51 years,” the senator said before the session plan fell through.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty said more work is needed before he calls a special session to deal with southeastern Minnesota flood relief.

Costly fall

Minnesota’s economy will lose $60 million in the next two years because of the Aug. 1 Minneapolis bridge collapse, the state Department of Employment and Economic Development estimates.

While the impact is concentrated in the Twin Cities, it could be felt in lower state government revenues.

Road coalition

Minnesota’s two U.S. senators and one from South Dakota are among those who want to borrow $50 billion to improve the country’s transportation infrastructure.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Norm Coleman, R-Minn, and John Thune, R-S.D., say their “Build America Bonds” plan is a one-time federal borrowing program that could create 2.5 million construction jobs and save lives.

“The Build America Bonds Act is about generating economic growth, improving transportation infrastructure and, ultimately, saving lives through enhanced transportation safety without a tax increase,” Thune said.

Costly power?

Five energy and environmental groups say building a coal-fired South Dakota power plant – and constructing new power lines in Minnesota – will cost more after a new Minnesota law took effect.

A legal document filed by the groups opposing the Big Stone II plant said the new plant would impede Minnesota’s mandate to reduce global warming emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050.

“Minnesota’s historic energy legislation of 2007 should mean a new direction in energy policy, but it will be business as usual if the Public Utilities Commission agrees with the Pawlenty administration and approves the coal plant power line,” said Bill Grant, Izaak Walton League of America’s regional executive director.

Davis and Cole work for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. Davis can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com; Cole can be reached at (701) 224-0830 or forumcap@btinet.net.