Legislators bracing for battle over transportation spending in upcoming session

Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders laid out their vision for the upcoming legislative session Thursday, which includes improving the state’s transportation system.

The need for rebuilding the state’s roads and bridges is the one thing lawmakers all agree on, but there's no agreement on how to pay for it.

Last year, the governor proposed raising the gas tax, but it never started the engine of discussion with republicans. At a roundtable discussion on Thursday, Dayton says he's waiting to see what lawmakers have to offer.

"I insist that it be real, that we not gut the general fund and shift $500 million out of the biennium of the general fund to transportation, and secondly that it provide a continuing source of secure revenue so that the construction industry the construction industry can gear up knowing that we got a 10 year commitment here to do what we need to do,” Dayton said.

Finding that source of funding, however, is only half the challenge. The other half is what to spend it on.

"There are controversial things about some of these transportation plans,” House Speaker Rep. Kurt Daudt said. “One of them is transit.  It doesn't have the broad bipartisan support all across the state that people wish that it had. That's fine. It's just simply doesn't.”

House Minority Leader Rep. Paul Thissen disagrees.

"For someone to come out here…and say transit is controversial -it's controversial in the tea party wing of the republican party,” Thissen said. “But, it's broadly supported by the people of Minnesota." 

And that's only one of the disagreements. Another is whether to spend surplus money on roads.

"We talk about a $1.2 billion surplus and the need to raise another billion dollars in taxation dedicated to transportation that does not make sense to people, it doesn't make sense to me,” Senate Minority Leader Sen. David Hann said.

Because of those deep divisions, some legislators says they’re very pessimistic about passing a transportation bill in this session.