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Record editorial: Cheers to six Republicans who broke ranks to override veto

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Cheers to the six Republican members of the Minnesota House who broke ranks and voted to override the governor's transportation veto.

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Gov. Pawlenty is being penny-wise and pound-foolish with his refusal to consider any tax increases.

There are times when a small tax increase now will save residents from a big tax increase later, and transportation is a good case in point.

Any highway engineer will tell you it costs a lot more to rebuild a highway from the crumbling base up than to properly maintain a roadway so it doesn't have to be rebuilt.

The state hasn't been raising enough money to take care of its road maintenance responsibilities and still have enough for the new highway construction that is also needed.

To its credit, Becker County has trying been trying the past several years to pick up the slack in state funding by using property tax dollars -- $500,000 a year -- to try to keep up with its road construction needs.

Becker County has 678 miles of road, 452 of them paved.

The typical lifespan for a paved road is 60 years, and it requires several overlays and reconstruction jobs in order to get that much out of them.

Before this bill passed, the county was receiving about $2.1 million a year from the state and another $200,000 from the federal government, which means it didn't even have enough to overlay its roads every 20 years. It's $864,000 a year short.

That would be true even if it were possible to keep overlaying a road without reconstructing it, but a road gets higher and narrower with each overlay, and some older county highways aren't that wide to begin with.

To do the job right -- two overlays and one reconstruction job every 60 years -- would require another $2.9 million per year for the highway department.

In some areas it might be possible to "reclaim" roads and not completely reconstruct them, but even that would require nearly double what the county now receives in state highway aid.

The bill that Pawlenty vetoed -- and that the Legislature overrode -- will bring about $9.5 million in additional transportation dollars to Becker County over 10 years, and about $1.2 million more to Detroit Lakes.

If you've been following the math, you'll see that still isn't as much as the county needs to maintain its road infrastructure. But it puts the county in a much better position than it would be in had Pawlenty's irresponsible veto not been overridden.

In the long run, the increase in the gas tax is going to save county taxpayers a lot of money.

Too bad the six Republicans who voted with the DFL on this issue had to put their political careers on the line to do the right thing.

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