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The Capitol Note: Transportation advocates push more taxes on gas, metro-area sales tax

Mike Mullen//February 19, 2014

The Capitol Note: Transportation advocates push more taxes on gas, metro-area sales tax

Mike Mullen//February 19, 2014

Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, plans to release a transportation bill later this month. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher.)
Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, plans to release a transportation bill later this month. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher.)

1.) Transportation finance leaders chose not to release their own plan for new revenue during a joint legislative hearing on Tuesday, but that didn’t stop the broad, well-organized Move MN coalition from introducing its own ideas, the Pioneer Press reports. The transportation advocacy group, which counts major labor unions and the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce among its members, wants a new 5 percent sales tax on gas throughout the state and a .75-cent sales tax in the metro area. Combined, Move MN hopes those two revenue streams would result in $727 million per year, which would be more than enough to alleviate the $12 billion gap in funding projected by Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle, who also testified during the joint committee meeting. Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, the respective chairs of the Senate and House panels, plan to release their own proposal shortly after the beginning of the 2014 session later this month.

2.) Minnesotans are on board with the idea of raising the minimum wage this year, but a majority would balk at the $9.50 level that’s been pushed by advocates and DFL lawmakers. That’s according to new results from the Star Tribune‘s Minnesota Poll, which found 42 percent of respondents on board with the figure that passed the House last session. Some 16 percent of those surveyed are in favor of keeping the state minimum at $6.15, which is more than a dollar lower than the federal level of $7.25; Minnesota is one of just four states with a minimum wage lower than the federally mandated number, which takes precedence in many employment situations. Another 37 percent support a number “in between” $6.15 and $9.50. As could be expected, support is strongest among Democrats, who favor the $9.50 figure at a rate of 64 percent, and weakest with Republicans, only 14 percent of whom would want the state minimum to move to $9.50 an hour.

3.) New polling conducted for the chief Republican campaign outfit finds DFL U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson comfortably ahead of his GOP challenger, Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, according to Minnesota Public Radio. Peterson, who recently helped see a new Farm Bill through the House after years without passage of new legislation, has a 58 percent approval rating among likely voters in the 7th Congressional District, and only 23 percent of those surveyed disapproved of his performance. The Democratic incumbent also defeats Westrom handily, 46 percent to 39 percent, in a head-to-head contest. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is taking solace in its findings from a stand-alone question asking if Peterson deserved re-election, where just 33 percent answered in the affirmative, while 50 percent said the district could use a new representative. The poll also found that respondents favored Westrom 51 percent to 36 percent following exposure to a quick, one-sided version of both candidates’ background.


  • Joe Campbell, senior communications officer for the City of St. Paul, is leaving that office to join the state health insurance exchange, according to the Pioneer Press. Campbell took the municipal job after spending five years in communications for DFL U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar; he is scheduled to serve out his duties with the city for the rest of this month, and will join MNsure in March.
  • Long-shot — well, okay, no-shot — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Harold Shudlick has announced that he will suspend his campaign indefinitely, posting a partly tongue-in-cheek explanation for the decision to his campaign Facebook page.
  • The Minnesota Government Relations Council (MGRC) is hosting its pre-session membership meeting later this week at the Summit Tap Room in St. Paul. Forum News reporter Don Davis and Mary Lahammer of TPT are scheduled to serve as panelists, and will present the media’s view of the upcoming session. Cost is $25 for members, $35 for non-members. More information here.
  • Erica Prosser has been appointed to the Metropolitan Airports Commission by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges. Prosser, a longtime policy aide to Hodges’ predecessor R.T. Rybak, is serving in a similar advisory role for Hodges, and her current portfolio includes the city’s fire department and regulatory services.
  • The Secretary of State’s office is hosting a “Capitol Code” event aimed at generating innovative ideas that make use of publicly available data. The all-day event will be held at CoCo Uptown in Minneapolis, and starts at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday. More information here.
  • Former Minnesota Pollution Control Agency staffer Kris Hulsebus has died at age 66, and is remembered as a dedicated public servant in a Star Tribune obituary. Hulsebus, an attorney, started in private practice following her admittance to the Minnesota Bar in 1976, and later worked at the Attorney General’s office.

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