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New bill would generate transportation funds

A new transportation funding bill introduced at the Minnesota Legislature this year would change the way the Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB) is governed.

CTIB is a regional coalition that funds transit projects in the metropolitan area through a dedicated quarter-percent sales tax.

The new bill would increase the sales tax to 1 percent in participating counties including Washington, and require Carver and Scott counties to chip into the pool of funds.

Washington County Public Works Director Don Theisen explained how the bill would impact  funding structures at a workshop meeting Tuesday, March 11.

If the bill became law, the tax would become a uniform 1 percent throughout the seven-county metro area and levied by the state.

It would also provide nearly $40 million in funds for regional bike trails, pedestrian infrastructure and safe routes to school, he said.

“We all know the first bill is never the final bill,” Theisen said. “This is just the bill that will be discussed.”

The bill also requires grants to be awarded to the Metropolitan Council, which will then use a portion of the revenue for existing bus and rail transit operations in addition to funding for Southwest, Red Rock and Gateway corridors.

“The other side of the coin, the county would have less say in where the money would go,” Theisen said.

Although there is a lot more money in the system, he said there is no guarantee to see a return locally.

The bill also adds a 5 percent gross receipts tax on motor fuels, which is equivalent to about 15 cents per gallon gas or fuels excise tax.

“It’s certainly not as transparent as gas at the pump,” Theisen said, noting that it would be levied on distributors from wholesale of motor fuels within the state.

The increase is expected to generate $425 million in revenue for roads in the state, according to the bill.

The bill was introduced in both the House and Senate at the beginning of the session.

County Engineer Wayne Sandberg told Washington County commissioners that many interest groups including Minnesota Department of Transportation, Association of Minnesota Counties and Minnesota Inter-county Association will have to weigh in on the proposal.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.