Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the Minnesota Legislature deserve a failing grade on transportation this year.

The governor and Legislature missed an opportunity to fund the state’s crumbling infrastructure.

To their credit, lawmakers led by Rep. Bernie Lieder, DFL-Crookston, a former county commissioner, and Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, a longtime advocate for counties in the area of road funding, brought forth a package that would have brought money to rural and metro Minnesota alike. It even passed both chambers once.

It was not a painless bill. It would have increased gas taxes, license tab fees and put an excise tax on motor vehicles. It also included bonding for highway construction.

It wasn’t a perfect bill, by any means, but it would have brought much-needed money to counties and townships for road repairs, maintenance and construction.


It wasn’t a perfect bill, by any means, but it would have brought much-needed money to counties and townships for road repairs, maintenance and construction.

But Gov. Pawlenty vetoed the legislation.

"With more than $5 billion in tax and fee increases, this bill would impose an unnecessary and onerous financial burden on Minnesota citizens and weaken our state’s economy," Pawlenty wrote in his veto message. "The entire array of tax increases in this bill would cost an average family in Minnesota up to $500 per year." An unnecessary burden? What about our parents and grandparents who sacrificed so we could have the strong infrastructure system we have today? Did they call roads an unnecessary burden?

Weaken our state’s economy? What does sitting in traffic do for our state’s economy or our state’s environment for that matter? How does a lack of 10-ton roads in rural areas help farmers get soybeans and corn, cattle and hogs to market or corn to an ethanol plant?

Cost an average family in Minnesota up to $500 per year. Yes, it will take a bite out of the budget, but it sounds quite reasonable to improve the safety of roads.

It’s expensive to maintain and build roads and the cost keeps increasing as oil prices rise. Prices for blacktop have doubled in the past two years. Just fueling the equipment costs more than ever before.

Pawlenty, no doubt keeping his eye on his own political rising star, supports bonding for road construction. That way, when the bills come due, he’ll be long gone.

It’s irresponsible to bond for road construction. It’s the easy way out and it ends up costing more in the long run.


It’s no different than borrowing money for farm or home repairs. There’s closing costs and interest, plus the principle.

The state has delayed action on road funding for too long already. Some counties have decided they can no longer wait for the state, turning to property taxpayers to fund road projects because of a lack of state funding.

Legislators tried and failed in the final hours of the recently completed session to override the governor’s veto. They fell one vote short in the House at one point, before lawmakers began changing their votes.

That means we’ll continue bumping along on our unsafe rural two-lanes and our metro friends will continue sitting in traffic.

We need to hold lawmakers and the governor accountable for their actions. If you think it’s time to step up to the plate and put your money into the roads you use everyday, call your lawmaker and tell her or him to support a gas tax increase.

What To Read Next
Caitlin and Jason Keck’s two-year term on the American Farm Bureau Federation committee begins next month.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission met on Jan. 5, 2023, to consider the application for Summit Carbon Solutions.
Qualified Minnesota farmers will receive dollar-for-dollar matching money to purchase farmland.