Dayton Proposes Tax on Minnesota Railroads to Improve Safety

Published On: 1st April 2015

From the internet

The funding for rail safety projects have to come from somewhere and Gov. Mark Dayton is proposing that the railroads be subject to a new tax that pays for these projects.

Dayton has cited traffic congestion as an issue. This congestion is caused by trains and it has become an issue throughout the state. Dayton said he wants to raise $33 million per year in railroad taxes for a decade to help fund improvements to the rail crossings that will make them safer. When there is an emergency, he wants improved emergency response training so that the emergencies can be dealt with accordingly.

There are hundreds of railroad crossings that are blocked by trains every night and every day. He said that this delays emergency vehicles when they are responding to emergency situations. Plus the blocked rail crossings slow drivers down when they are trying to get from point A to point B.

The governor pitched this spending proposal for rail and transportation safety on March 16th in Bemidji and Moorhead. Among the projects, there is a desire to fund an underpass that would allow for traffic to avoid trains. It is believed that the overpass will relieve six total hours of delays on a daily basis.

State and federal officials also say that the increase in crude oil shipments on railroads put communities at a higher risk for accidents. Trains currently carry a half million barrels of oil through the state every single day.

The railroad officials are against new taxes. Federal law actually says a state cannot impose new tax on railroads, according to the Minnesota Regional Railroads association. Dayton said that the rail companies need to contribute to the efforts by the state to promote safety. Dayton says it would only be fair for the railroads to pay for part of the problem that is their fault. He believes they should be the ones to fit the bill for the solution, which is why he proposed the tax. He said if the railroads want to go to court over the matter, he is willing to go to court. This is why when it has been proposed that the state contribute some of its surplus, the governor is reluctant to make any such move.

Dayton is also proposing a bonding bill to fund railroad projects, such as the underpass, so that vehicle and rail traffic can be separated.

Dayton has proposed a raise in gasoline taxes to address the transportation woes throughout Minnesota. The plan is a $6 billion plan that would entail up to $10.5 million over the next ten years for improvements. The gasoline tax would be a 6 ½-cent excise tax on wholesale gas sales. This would be in addition to a rail tax.