• Legislature Overrides Governor Veto
  • May 7, 2008
  • Law Firm: Leonard, Street and Deinard, Professional Association - Minneapolis Office
  • The legislature began the week by successfully overriding Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of the transportation funding bill. Transportation advocates filled the halls of the Capitol to witness what many have waited more than 15 years for. As the votes were called, cheering and chanting echoed through the Capitol Rotunda. The efforts of an unusual coalition of construction workers, truckers, transit advocates, farmers and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce contributed to its final passage. In a largely historic move, six house Republicans voted with Democrats to override the veto on a 91 41 vote. The Senate passed the override on a vote of 47 20.

    While not everyone was pleased with the outcome, Gov. Pawlenty called the plan “ridiculous” and promised a “tax revolt.” House Republican leadership immediately stripped the leadership positions and caucus support from those members who voted for the override and against the Governor’s position. The six Republicans are also likely to lose the endorsement of their party in the upcoming election.

    The transportation bill, H.F. 2800/S.F. 2521, authored by the chairs of the transportation committees, Rep. Bernie Lieder (DFL-Crookston) and Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing), is estimated to bring in over $7 billion in new funding over the next 10 years and provide an estimated 300,000 jobs. The bill dedicates about $600 million to replace fractured critical trunk highway bridges and $132 million for I 35W bridge reconstruction.

    The funding package finances the trunk highway system through a 5 cent gas tax increase, a 3½ cent tax surcharge to pay for debt service, tab fee increases and a $20 new-vehicle excise tax. It provides a $25 tax credit to low-income Minnesotans to help offset the gas-tax increase.

    The bill also allows county boards in the seven-county metro area to impose a quarter-cent sales tax dedicated to transit funding. The metro-wide sales tax was reduced from a half-cent sales tax, thus gaining the support of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and providing support to a few Republican legislators. The bill also allows additional counties to impose an additional sales tax, subject to a voter referendum.

    With the transportation funding bill behind them, the legislature will now be able to focus on the other priorities of the session: health-care reform, a capital investment bill, and new energy and economic development initiatives.