• Stella 2020

We asked Gov. Tim Walz why he gave up the gas tax. Here’s what he said.

By DAVE ORRICK | dorrick@pioneerpress.com | Pioneer Press | via TwinCities.com

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, left, looks at Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, right, as he talks about the agreement they and Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman, not pictured, came to on the next two-year budge during a press conference in the Governors Office at the State Capitol Building on Sunday on Sunday, May 19, 2019. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Ever since he announced his candidacy, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has been pushing for an increase to the state’s gasoline tax to pay for transportation improvements.

And then he gave it up — for now, at least.

On Sunday after weeks of negotiations, Walz, a Democrat, announced a broad two-year budget agreement with House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, and Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa.

It did not include a gas tax.

On Monday, the Pioneer Press asked Walz why he gave up the gas tax hike, which he had initially proposed as a 20-cent increase over several years, with inflationary increases continuing after that.

Walz said he wouldn’t discuss details of the behind-the-scenes budget negotiations, but here’s some of what he did say.


Walz implied the gas tax wasn’t his highest priority and acknowledged that Senate Republicans were steadfast in their opposition.

“I had a broad agenda for a Minnesota to say where we’re going,” he said, noting that he was able to gain agreements from Republicans on Democratic-supported education and health care taxing and spending plans.

“We have not ever disputed the need on transportation, but I think how you pay for it became the issue,” he said, adding later: “At some point in time, each side is going to determine simply where their line is.”


Walz seemed to suggest that he could take another swing at the gas tax next year, describing the debate as “a conversation that can go on another day.”

He also said that public sentiments over for a gas tax hike would be a major factor in any future discussion of it.

“It was pretty obvious here that this was not something that Republicans wanted to talk a lot about,” he said. “I think that will start to bubble up from constituents. … This isn’t a game where I win or lose. My job is to make things better for Minnesota, and if that simply wasn’t something that people wanted to do, then I’m open.”

Ryan Faircloth contributed to this report.