Group opposes gas tax money for off-road trailsA group that opposes the use of motorized recreational vehicles on public lands has asked Minnesota to stop spending millions of gas tax dollars on programs for snowmobiles, boats, dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles and fix roads and bridges instead.
By: Forum Newspapers, Lake County News Chronicle
A group that opposes the use of motorized recreational vehicles on public lands has asked Minnesota to stop spending millions of gas tax dollars on programs for snowmobiles, boats, dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles and fix roads and bridges instead.
The Minnesota Constitution says gas tax money is supposed go to the state’s highway fund. The legislature has long interpreted that to mean the tax on gas for boats can go to boat landings and taxes for gas burned in ATVs can be spent on ATV trails.
Minnesota’s gas tax raised $745 million last year. Jeff Brown, executive director of Minnesotans for Responsible Recreation, said Tuesday that too much of it benefits riders of off-road vehicles.
“Almost 3 percent of our state’s annual gas tax is diverted to motorized recreation,” Brown said. “Minnesotans have paid out $350 million to promote motorized recreation, $18.5 million each year.”
The group released a study and launched a public education campaign this month to urge voters to persuade lawmakers to end the diversions. The group also is getting involved in the governor’s race, surveying candidates on where they stand on the issue.
“Our state is in a financial crisis,” Brown said. “Our roads and bridges are falling apart.”
The use of gas tax revenues for recreational purposes dates back to the 1960s when money was first diverted for boating infrastructure and water law enforcement. Brown said speaking out against the practice is a taboo subject in northern Minnesota.
Colleen Coyne, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Natural Resources, confirmed the state has spent about $350 million in gas tax revenues on recreation projects over the years, but said the money was spent on necessary upkeep and management of trails, as well as enforcement efforts on trails.