County board supports bill to fund transportation

NEW ULM – Brown County commissioners approved a resolution Tuesday showing support for a proposed legislative bill that would invest more than $3 billion for needed highway and transit improvements over the next four years.

Bill provisions, according to the Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC), include $331.9 million to counties each year, authorization of $800 million in trunk highway bonds, a gas tax hike of five cents a gallon this year, a 1.5-cent fuel surcharge each year for three years to pay for highway bonding debt service, hiking license tab fees from 1.25 percent to 1.375 percent of vehicle values and increasing the flat tax paid by all vehicle owners by $10.

State sales tax on all automobile parts and services would be extended.

The bill authorizes a statewide wheelage tax with no cap and authorizes Greater Minnesota counties to levy local option sales taxes for transportation by county board resolution.

Cities would be authorized to create Street Improvement Districts.

Late license tab fees would be 5 percent of registration tax, with $19.7 million going to counties as highway user taxes.

Additional funds would improve chances of completing the U.S. Highway 14 four-lane conversion from two to four lanes between New Ulm and Rochester, according to the RBA.

The deadline for counties to approve the resolution is Thursday, April 11. An AMC update states that the resolution is not meant to support a specific funding package, but to let legislators know transportation is a priority for counties.

In other action, commissioners approved hiring Madsen Surveying for the 2013 Lake Hanska and Linden Township re-monumentation projects for $39,000.

Commissioner Scott Windschitl reported that the new ARMER radio system is up and running in most of Minnesota, but there is already talk about newer technology – a broadband cellphone network for Emergency Responders, firefighters and law enforcement.

“The new network would need 70,000 to 110,000 users to be viable,” Windschitl said. “It would have all kinds of new capabilities including being able to shutdown roads and highways. Some existing cellphone towers could be used, but many new ones would have to be built.

Commissioner Dick Seeboth reported the Brown County Landfill now accepts televisions and other “white goods” (heavy appliances) recycling for a $5 fee.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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