MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota House Republicans proposed a sweeping transportation funding package Tuesday to kickstart lawmakers toward ending the session.
There are only five days left in the session, and they have not passed any of the major spending bills.
Republicans are tough negotiators; they will not agree to any of the other big bills unless transportation passes first.
They rolled out a compromise, but it includes car tab fee hike -- one day after blasting Gov. Mark Dayton for doing the same thing. Their compromise includes $100 million in annual fee hikes.
Current drivers will not pay more for car tabs under the plan -- only new car buyers. There is no gas tax hike, and the tax-hike hating GOP says raising tab fees is not a tax hike.
"We don't believe so," said House Speaker Kurt Daudt. "We believe it's a user fee for our roads."
The Republican compromise does not include new money for light rail transit, including Southwest Light Rail.
Daudt says it is so unpopular with his members that he is willing to kill it once and for all.
"Yes, I would," he said.
But Democrats say there is no deal without transit.
"Quit thinking about Southwest Light Rail in the context of my generation, and start to think about it in the context of the next generation," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk. "Transportation infrastructure is multi-generational. When roads get built and transit systems get built, it not always about you and the people who are paying for it today. It's investments in the next generation."
Gov. Dayton emerged from a negotiating session later in the day, describing the GOP offer as politics -- not policy.
"If you're in the majority as they are, then they have a responsibility to co-govern. And this bill has unfortunately become more about next November's election than it has about the future of Minnesota," Dayton said.
The transportation bill is key to breaking the logjam, and the Southwest Light Rail is not the only high-profile bill in limbo.
A bill to require private companies to offer paid family leave is stalled, as is a tax bill, which contains tax breaks for a Minnesota United Soccer Stadium in St. Paul.
Daudt says there is not a single vote in his caucus for the $1.7 billion light rail project, but they are going to have to make a choice: If the state does not come up with $135 million to keep it going, the light rail project will lose $900 million in federal funds to build it -- stopping it in its tracks.
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