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Broad Consensus Growing on Transportation

January 23, 2008 By Chris Shields, Editor and Deputy Communications Director

It might be only three weeks since Minnesota 2020 released Moving Forward: The Benefit of Transportation Investment to Minnesota's Economy, but a broad consensus is growing nationally and here at home to invest in and improve our transportation infrastructure.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's largest and most powerful business group, announced that it was willing to consider an increase in the federal gasoline tax or a tax on carbon emissions, provided that the new revenue goes to transportation.  This is a significant development given the Chamber's traditional anti-tax stance.

Even more surprising comes from the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, a federal panel tasked with studying transportation issues over the last 22 months.  The
majority opinion concluded a federal gas tax increase of 25 to 41 cents per gallon was necessary to fund the nation's aging transportation infrastructure. Panel members supporting the opinion included Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation.  Weyrich told The Hill newspaper, "The orthodoxy in the conservative movement is don't raise any tax. But in this particular instance, I don't see any alternative."

Here at home, under the shadow of the 35W bridge collapse, crumbling roads, and miles of congestion; the pressure for transportation investment is building.  The most encouraging sign comes from the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.  The Star Tribune reports that the Chamber is backing a state gas tax increase of 7.5 cents for roads and bridges. The paper also reports the Chamber pushing for $100 million annual investment in transit and is now open to a metro-wide sales tax to generate the revenue.  The Chamber had previously offered lukewarm support for a nickel a gallon increase.

As outlined in Moving Forward, Chamber of Commerce leadership is key to successfully passing transportation investment legislation. Without Chamber leadership, the initiatives fail.  Minnesota is no different. With active, engaged Minnesota Chamber leadership, a transportation investment package may now become a reality.

We've heard from the national level and from the state level.  Business, labor, progressives, and conservatives recognize the need for a real investment in the state's transportation infrastructure.  Now, with a broad, growing consensus, will Governor Pawlenty finally let Minnesota move forward?

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