In a 3-2 vote last week, at the regular Pine County board meeting, the board approved a resolution of support to the state for increased taxes for transportation.
County Engineer Mark LeBrun said the Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC), who initiated the resolution, wanted to know the board’s plan on increasing taxes to go specifically to transportation.
“I support transportation but I understand most people don’t want a tax increase,” he said.
One of the options for a transportation tax increase, LeBrun said, would be a $10 wheelage tax on tabs that would go to the county. He mentioned there was an increase in gas tax in 2008 but how it’s being used is being disputed by counties.
Legislators are looking at making it possible for counties to implement wheelage tax, but, counties would have a choice whether or not to implement it.
“What AMC is asking is that all counties have the same authority to have wheelage tax,” he said.
Commissioner Doug Carlson of Sandstone asked whether the tax would apply to sovereign nation vehicles because of the number of those vehicles on Pine County roads, to which LeBrun replied, “No.”
Commissioner Steven Hallan of Pine City and Carlson said they supported the tax.
The two commissioners opposed to the resolution of support were Curt Rossow of Willow River and Mitch Pangerl of Pine City.
Rossow said he didn’t mind raising taxes if they would be spent properly. He didn’t think the wheelage tax would help Pine County. “This is going to the Legislature to raise taxes.”
Pangerl said the resolution was too broad, adding that he thought it would negatively affect the elderly residents in Pine County who “just go to town to get groceries.”
What the resolution is attempting to do, according to LeBrun, is relay to the state there needs to be additional money for township roads.
The last paragraph of the resolution was questioned by Rossow. It says:
“Now therefore be it resolved that the Pine County Board of Commissioners encourages the Minnesota Legislature to pass and the Governor to sign a bill that brings adequate funding to Minnesota’s statewide transportation system.”
“The last paragraph does not say counties get an equal share,” Rossow said. “I don’t like assuming.”
Commissioner Steve Chaffee of Hinckley, Carlson and Hallan voted yes. Rossow and Pangerl voted no.