Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday created a task force to find new revenue to close a yawning gap in funding for roads and transit.
Dayton said he wants the panel to "look all over the country and ... all over the world" for big ideas.
"I'm not interested in nickel-and- dime modifications to our status quo because our status quo is getting worse," he said.
The panel will come up with ideas that can be considered in the 2013 legislative session.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation has been studying a tax on miles driven by motorists. But at a news conference at Dayton's announcement, MnDOT Commissioner Tom Sorel said more study is needed before determining whether it would be fair and worth doing.
"People want fairness on the way they're taxed on their roadway system," Sorel said. "There's a debate whether that's a fair way or not."
New sources of revenue are being considered because the gasoline tax is expected to provide a declining share of transportation funding as vehicles become more efficient in their use of fossil fuels or switch to alternatives like electricity.
Dayton said the task force study was inspired by his travels around the state and "experiencing the deterioration of Minnesota's highway system."
He noted that forecasts have shown state transportation funding falling behind by as much as $50 billion over the next 20 years.
"Minnesota has chosen by default and without really much public debate a path of declining transportation investments and therefore declining ... quality," Dayton said.
The governor said Minnesota has fallen behind other states in transportation and that the task force would report on the costs of maintaining the current transportation system or improving it.
Transportation funding has been a contentious issue in the Legislature over the years, with DFLers and Republicans quarreling over increases in the gasoline tax.
But one GOP legislator involved in transportation issues offered a cautious endorsement of the task force plan.
"I'm encouraged by it," said Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. "We have talked with MnDOT for quite a while about innovative finance. We'll see if they come up with something."
Gimse said he'd want to take a close look at a miles-based tax, which could add to costs for rural motorists who drive long distances.
Sorel said early returns on the MnDOT study on the miles tax shows the technology exists for the state to keep track of miles driven.
Last month the agency said preliminary findings of an earlier task force concluded that a miles tax is largely unfamiliar to the public and policymakers and many questions remain unanswered. Full-scale implementation of a miles tax was not recommended until concerns are satisfactorily addressed.
The earlier task force concluded that mileage fees should be sufficient to fund adequate roadway transportation, and the funds should be dedicated to that use.
Miles tax rates should reflect the cost and benefit that different vehicles and motorists have on the roadway transportation system and the environment. Fee levels should take into account other fees on road users.
Any miles-based fee should be designed in a way that protects user privacy, the earlier task force said. Some critics of the system worry that the tracking devices could allow government to interfere with the privacy of drivers.
Pat Doyle • 612-673-4504