The Hennepin County Board on Tuesday raised the county's annual wheelage tax from $10 to $20 to fund road and bridge repairs.
The vote was 4 to 2, with Commissioners Mike Opat and Jan Callison voting to reject the increase. The board's approval meets a state-imposed Thursday deadline to enact the tax increase on Jan. 1.
The increased tax will raise $10 million annually, still short of the $25 million that public works officials told the board it needs for long-term upkeep of the county's transportation assets. The board was presented with other funding options, such as raising property taxes, using revenue from the transportation sales tax or issuing a bond.
"Our roads and bridges need repairs. Property tax rates have other pressures, bonding would be borrowing against depreciating assets, and the sales tax is, for now, a non-starter," said Board Chairwoman Marion Greene. "Bringing Hennepin's wheelage tax in line with other counties is the prudent approach."
The wheelage tax has been $10 since 2014. The Legislature last year allowed counties to raise the tax to $20.
Opat said the increase was unfortunate. The sales tax raises $13 million a month, he said. "I've never been wild about the Legislature offering a local option to pay for things that the state should probably be funding," he said. "There were better sources."