In the wake of the bridge collapse, a local television station polled Minnesotans to see whether they would support a gas tax to generate more money for roads and bridges. Despite the proximity of the collapse — it had only been a week since the St. Anthony Bridge fell into the Mississippi, killing 13 — 57% of Minnesotans opposed the tax increase. Two months later, Minnesotans haven’t changed their minds:
Minnesotans aren’t clamoring for action from state leaders in the wake of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse, a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll has found, supporting neither a gas tax increase nor a new special session to fund bridge repairs.
The poll found 50 percent of respondents opposed raising the gas tax, while 46 percent supported it. The gap is within the poll’s margin of sampling error — 4 percentage points, plus or minus.
The poll, which surveyed 802 Minnesota adults Sept. 18 through 23, also indicates that the public doesn’t fault Gov. Tim Pawlenty or the DFL-led Legislature for not dealing with the bridge collapse in a recent special session.
Sixty-eight percent approved of the way Pawlenty handled the disaster, and 58 percent approved of the Legislature’s handling of it.
Perhaps Minnesotans have a stronger resolve than most people credit. In the wake of the collapse, politicians like Elwyn Tinklenburg, James Oberstar, and Amy Klobuchar insisted that low taxes had to go in order to make Minnesota safe. One local deranged columnist declared six hours after the collapse that David Strom of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota and Tim Pawlenty were to blame for opposing tax increases.
Minnesotans simply didn’t buy the rhetoric. They saw through all of the fingerpointing, noting eventually that Oberstar did his best to route funds away from bridge and highway repair and into bike paths and visitor centers. They also found out that MnDOT has a $2.2 billion budget, more than twice that of public safety, and that perhaps adding to that budget should take second place to verifying that its existing money gets spent properly first.
In other words, Minnesotans are smarter and more sophisticated than the New York Times, Nick Coleman, and its allies think. We want an accounting for the money already given to MnDOT and the state government before we start giving even more of it. We want to know why an agency that already gets almost 9% of the entire state budget couldn’t see the collapse coming, and we want to know why our politicians think bike paths should get priority spending ahead of bridge inspections and repairs. When the government takes itself more seriously, then perhaps we’ll look at more taxes — but then, perhaps, they’ll prove unnecessary.