BACKGROUND MEMO: Republican Governors and Legislatures Across the U.S. Reject The Tax of Doing Nothing



TO:                          Members of the Press

FROM:                    Linden Zakula, Deputy Chief of Staff

SUBJECT:                Republican Governors and Legislatures Across the U.S. Reject The Tax of Doing Nothing 

DATE:                      April 1, 2016


Members of the Press –


In the last few years, states across the country have found themselves grappling with a common, bipartisan problem: there isn’t enough money to maintain existing transportation infrastructure. Republican governors and Republican state legislatures around the country have done the math, and raised new revenues through reasonable gas tax increases to make long-overdue investments in their states’ aging transportation systems. These states found the political courage to do something because they understand the tax of doing nothing: the longer you wait, the more expensive it gets to fix roads and bridges. They also know that high-quality, modern transportation infrastructure drives economic growth, innovation, and competitiveness.

Still, extreme Republicans in the Minnesota House of Representatives remain intransigent to raising the necessary revenues to responsibly resolve our state’s transportation crisis. Instead, they are proposing an irresponsible and inadequate plan that would shift hundreds of millions of dollars out of the General Fund, jeopardizing funding for education, health care, and other critical services.


While Minnesota House Republicans block progress this session to a real, sustainable, long-term transportation solution, here is a quick look at the progress that Republicans have made in other states.



Since 2013, eighteen states and the District of Columbia have passed gas tax increases to help resolve transportation funding deficits, similar to Minnesota’s transportation crisis. More than half of those gas tax increases were passed by Republicans. In fact, eight Republican governors have signed state gas tax increases into law, including: Idaho, Iowa, Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. State gas taxes have increased in the following states over the last three years:



·       District of Columbia

·       Idaho

·       Iowa  

·       Georgia  

·       Kentucky

·       Maryland  

·       Massachusetts  

·       Michigan

·       Nebraska  

·       New Hampshire 


·       North Carolina 

·       Pennsylvania

·       Rhode Island   

·       South Dakota  

·       Utah  

·       Vermont  

·       Virginia

·       Washington

·       Wyoming



While Minnesota House Republicans cling to an unreasonable position, Republicans across the country are leading the charge to raise gas tax transportation revenues. Here is what those Republicans are saying, in their own words:


TENNESSEE: Republican Governor Bill Haslam


In Tennessee, Republican Governor Bill Haslam is personally lobbying the State Legislature to increase the gas tax in 2016. According to Nashville Public Radio, state lawmakers will hear one more push to increase the gas tax.[1] Republican Governor Haslam said Tuesday that he’ll meet privately with representatives to try one more time to make the case. Until this week,[2] it appeared unlikely he would try this session, but Haslam says the state is falling behind on road projects, stating:


“We cannot keep doing what we’re doing now…We know we have a $6 billion backlog in road needs. It’s a question of: How quickly do we want to address that as a state?” [3]


--- Republican Governor Bill Haslam



INDIANA: Republican-Controlled State House


Just last month, the Republican-controlled Indiana House of Representatives passed a roads plan that included 4-cent gas tax increase.  The bill passed overwhelmingly 61-36 and pays for road maintenance by increasing the gas tax four cents a gallon and shifting all sales taxes on fuel to roads.[4] Republican State Representative Matt Lehman summed up the position of his caucus, saying:


“Indiana’s the crossroads of America. Our economy is growing in Indiana and our infrastructure to move those products is crumbling. It is time for us to lead and get our roads back in shape.”


--- Republican State Representative Matt Lehman



IOWA: Republican Governor and Republican-Controlled State House


In 2015, the Republican-controlled Iowa House of Representatives and Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate approved a 10-cent gas tax increase, which was signed into law by Republican Governor Terry Branstad. The process in Iowa took just two weeks. Republican Governor Branstad celebrated his state’s bipartisan commitment to solving its transportation challenges, saying:[5]


"This is a great example, on a difficult and controversial issue, of the kind of bipartisan cooperation that really makes Iowa stand out as a state where we work together and we get things done on behalf of the citizens of our state. This is important for economic development. This is important for our farmers to be able to get their crops to market. I know that many people have been waiting a long time for this."


--- Republican Governor Terry Branstad



UTAH: Republican-Controlled Legislature


In 2015, the Republican-controlled Utah Legislature passed a 5-cent gas tax increase. The act was signed   into law by Republican Governor Gary Herbert. Republican Governor Herbert said a gas tax increase was a necessary step to address that state’s transportation shortfall:[6]


“A strong transportation infrastructure has played a critical role in our economic growth and it will continue to do so, thanks to this bill. This session we took the necessary steps to address the discrepancy between the funds we have set aside for transportation and the funds we will need to support our growing population and keep commerce flowing through our state for decades to come.”


--- Republican Governor Gary Herbert



SOUTH DAKOTA: Republican Governor and Republican-Controlled Legislature


In 2015, the Republican-controlled South Dakota Legislature passed a 6-cent gas tax increase. It was signed into law by Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard, who emphasized the need for a gas tax increase in his 2015 State of the State Address:[7]


“We cannot address South Dakota’s highway funding needs by waiting for the federal government to act. Our ongoing funding falls far short of the level needed. Remember, our goal is to have 80 percent of our pavements in excellent or good condition at any given time…. I also propose that we increase the motor fuel tax by $.02 cents this year and by an additional $.02 cents each year going forward. 


“A major reason that road funding is insufficient today is because the gas tax does not inflate over time. If we begin to make a small adjustment each year, we can keep up with increasing construction costs and maintain the most efficient pavement condition, without putting future legislatures in a bad position in another ten or fifteen years.”


--- Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard



GEORGIA: Republican Governor and Republican-Controlled Legislature


In 2015, the Republican-controlled Georgia Legislature passed a 6-cent gas tax increase. It was signed into law by Republican Governor Nathan Deal, who said the investment reflected the state’s modern-day population and current infrastructure usage:[8]


“Each day, Georgians set out in the pursuit of a brighter future, and it is our roads and bridges that bear the weight of our success…We’ve reached the point where we can no longer keep up with the growing infrastructure demand that encourages job creation, maintains our businesses’ bottom lines and takes us home to our families. This investment reflects our modern-day population and current infrastructure usage.”


--- Republican Governor Nathan Deal



MICHIGAN: Republican Governor  and Republican-Controlled Legislature


In 2015, the Republican-controlled Michigan Legislature passed a 7.3-cent gas tax increase. It was signed into law by Republican Governor Rick Snyder, who said the investment was good for the state’s economy and addressing the state’s growing infrastructure problems:[9]

"[Raising the gas tax is] good for our economy, strengthening the network of local, state and federal roads that is vital for all of our job-creators This is the largest investment in Michigan roads and bridges in more than half a century, making them safer for Michiganders long into the future. I commend my partners in the Legislature for their resolve and their willingness to compromise. These are difficult decisions. If left unaddressed, our infrastructure problems would have grown more expensive to fix, there would have been greater damage to our vehicles and, more importantly, more drivers left to face unsafe conditions."

--- Republican Governor Rick Snyder







[1] Tennessee Gas Tax Reform Could Get One More Look This Year After All, Nashville Public Radio, 3/8/16

[2] Gov. Haslam restarting engine on Tennessee road funding, Times Free Press3/2/16

[3] Plan To Pay For Roads Doesn't Top Tennessee Governor's To-Do List This Year, Nashville Public Radio, 1/5/16

[4] Gas Tax Increase, Road Funding Bill Passes Indiana House, WBAA, 2/3/16

[5] Gas tax hike takes effect Sunday, Des Moines Register, 2/25/15

[6] Governor Herbert signs tax hikes into law, FOX13, 3/27/15

[7] Governor Dennis Daugaard, State of the State address, 1/13/15

[8] Gov. Nathan Deal signs $900 million transportation bill, Gwinett Daily Post, 5/3/15

[9] GOP Governor to Sign Gas Tax Hike, The Hill, 11/10/15