Walz is willing to bargain, let’s hear plans

In a far-ranging discussion Monday with the Post Bulletin’s editorial board, Gov. Tim Walz indicated his positions on the gas tax, a mandate for electric companies to use only clean energy by 2050, and budget proposals are not hard and fast.

“I’m willing to work with them,” he said of Republican opponents in the Legislature.

But, he said, “At some point in time, ‘no’ is going to have to stop being the answer.”

Walz, who has proposed a 20-cent increase in the gas tax, with all funding going to roads and bridges in the state, said he’s willing to consider a counter-offer. “I want to find a workable solution,” he said. “But I’m not going to kick the can down the road.”

On that point, we agree with the governor. Many Minnesotans might find his 20-cent increase in the gas tax to be excessive. But many of us have also been complaining for at least a decade that the state’s road and bridge infrastructure is in horrible shape.

Walz said that just to maintain the roads and bridges we now have will cost $19.17 billion over the next 19 years. That doesn’t include expansion of the road network.

Minnesota’s not alone in this situation. As Walz pointed out, the newly elected Republican governor of Ohio just proposed an 18-cents-per-gallon increase in that state’s gas tax.

We don’t like a big tax increase any more than the next person. We realize, though, that commerce in rural areas of the state depends on well-maintained roads and bridges. What we do like is the governor’s offer to those who say we can’t afford his proposal: Come up with a better idea.

“Tell me what your offer is,” he said. “I’m not ideologically tied to a gas tax. But I am tied to safer and better roads in Minnesota.”

Walz gained a reputation as a member of Congress who could reach across the aisle and form working relationships with political opponents. As governor, he appears ready to continue that practice. He has given credit, for instance, to Republicans for agreeing to an increase in MNLARS funding to sort out that mess. “They could have beat me up over it,” Walz said.

Walz described his budget proposals as “scalable,” which again sounds to us like an invitation to all interested parties to step up with alternative plans and proposals.

For the good of the state — especially the rural areas so heavily dependent on transportation infrastructure and so affected by climate change — we urge those who reject Walz’s initial proposals to put forth a plan of their own. We’re all ears.

— Rochester Post Bulletin