The Minnesota legislature is about to take up a “comprehensive transportation bill” which naturally includes billions of dollars in tax increases. I’ve had several conversations recently that have convinced me that this legislation is a stopgap measure at best. At worst, it’s a total waste of time. One reason why it’s a stopgap measure at best is because of the vehicles being built by Tesla Motors. Their sales pitch on the homepage of their website brags that the car is 100 percent electric, goes from 0 to 60 in less than 4 seconds, gets the equivalent of 135mpg, can go 220 miles on a single charge and costs .02 per mile to operate.

Considering that that’s just one such ‘vehicle of the future’, shouldn’t we be asking the DFL how it’ll fund road & bridge repairs once these vehicles become the rule rather than the exception? That day is coming, most likely sooner than people think.

Let’s also talk about something a little less dramatic than that. What happens when cars start meeting the higher CAFE standards enacted in the transportation bill that President Bush signed into law?

Let’s ask another question: When more energy efficient cars start appearing, will that shrink the appeal of LRT & other mass transit options? I doubt that it’ll eliminate the appeal but I’m certain that it’ll shrink the appeal.

The point I’m attempting to make is this: raising the gas tax is fast becoming an antiquated system for funding road & bridge repair.

A truly forward-looking policy would include a discussion of toll roads, which necessarily necessitates a discussion of privatizing highways & bridges. A truly forward-looking policy would have many other options on the table.

It’s obvious that the DFL policy is based on the ‘We’ve always done it this way’ 1960’s approach to funding our transportation needs. As Gov. Pawlenty highlighted last week in his State of the State Address, it’s time we stepped into the 21st century. It’s time to replace the antiquated tax systems of the 20th century with forward-looking policies that make sense in the 21st century.

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