Transportation bill passes both chambers, awaits Gov. Walz signature

After passing through both chambers on Sunday, a comprehensive transportation package is now headed to Gov. Tim Walz's desk for approval. The package, which includes a higher tax on gas indexed to inflation, has sparked a heated debate among lawmakers.

The last time a gas tax was approved in Minnesota was back in 2008 when the Interstate 35W bridge collapse claimed the lives of 13 people. 

"We are so far behind in fixing our roads, bridges, and transit systems. So today, we have an opportunity to change that," Rep. Jeff Brand, DFL-St. Peter, said. 

DFL lawmakers argue that historic investments are necessary to address decades of neglect of the state's infrastructure. However, Republican legislators contend that Minnesotans already pay enough at the pumps and have raised concerns about the delivery or road maintenance fee included in the bill.

Some Republicans are skeptical about the proposed projects, such as the Northern Lights Express up to Duluth.

"We're taking trains to nowhere. We're subsidizing more trains to nowhere," Rep. Paul Novotny, R-Elk River, said. 

In addition to the transportation package, the House also passed a proposal related to the Fairview-Sanford merger. However, Gov. Walz floated the possibility of a special session this summer to resolve the issue. 

"I think it was hard to get some of that done when we did not have the interim president in place, which we met last week with President Ettinger," said Walz.

Gov. Walz hailed the legislative session as "the most successful in many of our lifetimes." 

Despite tax rebates for Minnesotans, Republicans criticized the notable tax hikes included in the transportation package. 

The fate of the transportation package now rests with Walz.