Torkelson in key post

November 25, 2016 GMT

HANSKA - Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) has been appointed chairman of the Minnesota House of Representatives Transportation Finance Committee.

Torkelson is serving his fifth term in the state house. He previously served as the chairman of the Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee.

“I am pleased to have the opportunity to lead the transportation committee,” Torkelson said in a press release. “As chairman, road and bridge funding will be my focus and improving critical rural projects will certainly be among my top committee priorities.”

The appointment may be sending Torkelson out of the frying pan and into the fire. Torkelson’s previous position on the Capital Investment Committee put him near the center of the controversy over transportation funding last session.

The Legislature was unable to come to an agreement last session over how to fund an expected $600 million a year deficit for maintaining roads and transportation networks.

Democrats proposed raising a gas tax, highway bonding, a vehicle registration tax, and more.

Republicans held steadfast to a refusal to pay for the deficit by raising new revenue - a position Torkelson prefers. They would rather fund the deficit using the $900 million budget surplus and switching some revenues, such as an auto-parts sales tax, from the general fund to pay for state roads and bridges.

Torkelson will now be in the hot seat for funding legislation coming into the session that starts next January.