The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

June 24, 2013

Update: Zellers goes after Dayton on taxes

Former GOP speaker opposes gas tax for projects like Highway 14

MANKATO — During his first tour of the state in his campaign for governor, former Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers drove into Mankato on Highway 14 from the west.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has said it needs more money and maintain its current system and do mega-projects like Highway 14.

So what would a Gov. Zellers do with transportation, and Highway 14?

He doesn't like the idea of raising the gas tax.

“Our cars are getting more fuel efficient.”

Instead of raising taxes, Zellers said we “should re-invent the wheel” on transportation.

“Whatever we've been doing isn't working,” he said. “So let's try something new.”

His ideas include getting more federal money and using more design-build contracts, where the contractor works with MnDOT to develop specifications for a project.

On another Mankato issue, state support for a civic center, Zellers praised the ranking system used by the state last summer to disburse bonding money. Zellers said the Legislature's bonding allocations are too often influenced by politics.

“Rather than just be a political discussion, it can be far more of an economic discussion,” he said of the rankings, which scored job-creating projects higher.

On local government aid, Zellers said the state should help rural areas more than big cities.

“Rather than fund Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth at the amount of money they have, maybe those dollars should be spread over rural Minnesota more equitably,” he said.

The budget that Zellers helped craft as House speaker in 2011 kept local government aid flat for 2012.

Much of Zellers' reputation rests on how one views the government shutdown and eventual budget resolution in 2011.

Though he would run in a primary, Zellers is seeking the Republican nomination. His first argument for delegates is that he can balance the state budget without raising taxes.

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