Our House District 49B Representative Steve Elkins (DFL, Bloomington) has widely advertised his extensive interest and involvement in everything to do with Minnesota transportation. This information can be found in the several paragraphs on his candidate website discussing his future questionable plans for the district regarding roads, vehicles and taxes increases.
Representative Elkins has been and continues to serve in high-ranking positions of Minnesota transportation committees since his participation in Minnesota politics after transplanting from California. He is currently vice chair of the Walz administration transportation committee.
On his candidate website, Elkins clearly stated his support for increasing the gas tax to provide funding to complete road and bridge projects. “I also support fairly taxing electric vehicles based upon the number of miles they are driven. I support fully funding transit operations and capital investments in expanding the region’s Bus Rapid Transit system.”
However, he has gone beyond simply trying to raise the state gas tax. In January 2021, Representative Elkins proposed legislation to enable local governments (political subdivisions) to impose their own gas taxes. A close look at his bill, House File 274 reveals that the bill does not specify any limits on those local taxes.
The language is also vague and open to interpretation regarding how the revenue from his proposed local gas taxes could be spent. It appears that it could go beyond bridges, highways and roads, to include “transportation infrastructure”.
Quoting HF274, Sec. 2.d), " ‘Transportation infrastructure’ includes but is not limited to any of the following that are under the jurisdiction of the political subdivision imposing the tax: highways; streets and bridges; transit vehicles; and transit facilities.”
What is crucial to take away from this text is that Elkins is proposing legislation to enable local gas taxes to pay for more than highways, streets, and bridges. He wants the money raised to potentially also be used for local “transit vehicles” and “transit facilities”. These two terms are undefined in his proposal and could mean anything from electric buses to train stations to any kind of vehicle imaginable. It is also concerning that there is no ceiling proposed for this gas tax.
We already know that Elkins, by his own account, is a strong proponent of electric vehicles in Minnesota. Could this vague language mean that the money could be used for this pet project as well, whether or not we are ready for them?
As this bill has not been widely advertised by Representative Elkins himself, it gives a constituent pause. Do we really support local gas taxes? Further, why doesn’t he put an exact figure on his proposal? Minnesotans are already struggling financially. Is an additional gas tax for questionable purposes really what we need right now?