Chart of the Day: MN-DOT Revenue and Expenditures

This easy-to-read chart depicts all revenue and expenditures (FY 2013) for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.



Transportation funding is amazingly simple!

12 thoughts on “Chart of the Day: MN-DOT Revenue and Expenditures

  1. Adam FroehligAdam Froehlig

    MnDOT has done this sort of chart for at least a decade…I have 2003, 2004, and 2006 copies (wish I’d had more). I actually found it a quick way to break down how revenue goes through the Highway User Tax Distribution Fund (HUTDF). It should also be noted that, except for “Misc Revenue”, all the HUTDF revenue is from Constitutionally-derived sources (state gas tax, vehicle registration, and now the MVST).

  2. Steven Prince

    I am amazed that the fuel tax collects less than sales tax on vehicles and fees. It shows very dramatically how increases in fuel economy coupled with cheap fuel have really starved funding.

    1. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

      More importantly, it shows how simply buying, owning, and annually registering your vehicle amounts to more than an actual “user fee.” I could buy a car, pay for tabs/county wheelage fees, and drive it a mere 1,000 miles a year, and pay well over half that of a person who drives the average amount every year. ie those who live/work in places where they drive relatively few miles subsidize the people who live/work in places where they drive a lot.

      And that gas tax doesn’t pay for the road capacity at time/place of use, so it’s only a quasi-user fee.

      1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

        Great point Alex. I think too that this largely hides the costs of our road system from users. I wish there was a way that people would have to pay the actual cost for every mile they chose to drive. I’d bet people would drive a lot less.

        People love big-box stores because they think they’re saving money. If they realized how much more it costs (fuel, tires, maintenance, insurance, road maintenance, police/fire costs) for the extra driving then they might well appreciate the local grocery with slightly higher prices.

      1. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

        Yes, it is. The point is, simply buying and annually registering a vehicle represents 53.3% of the 3 sources’ contribution to the HUTD. No, we don’t all buy cars every year (though the MVST includes lease sales taxes which is much more frequent), but on average, society is pumping more money in from buying/leasing and registering their vehicles than they are by paying gas taxes at the pump.

        As a result, people who own cars and rarely use them and/or drive primarily on local streets paid for from city budgets cross-subsidize the ones who drive much, much more.

        1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

          Exactly. Perverse incentives, and it uncouples fees from expenses. Shouldn’t we be taxing miles or gallons rather than just owning a car? Then people would have fewer sunk costs and more incentive to truly make a decision about how valuable their driving is to them.

          1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

            I’d think the only equitable way to do it would be a weight/mile based wheelage tax. Too much disparity otherwise with fuel economy differences, alternative fuels that might be difficult to tax, etc.

            Possibly even one that charges based on the costs of the actual stroad so that people would choose the least expensive route rather than just shortest (I’d guess that over time for the cost per pound/mile an interstate is less costly than an arterial that is less costly than a residential street).

            I’d think this would be a very tough sell if the government was running it, but perhaps if it was set up so that competitive private companies collected the data (use us, put our GPS in your car, etc.) and reported it to the state then it’d be more palatable? This could also tell people how much it’s costing them for each mile they drive. 🙂

        2. John

          You forgot to account for federal revenue which is almost entirely gas tax. Then it is more like 60% of HUTD is from the gas tax. Also, let’s not forget that if you eliminated or greatly reduced MVST, you significantly reduce transit funding…which is another cross-subsidy but I won’t get into that.

          1. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

            Well, I was speaking only of MN funding sources and cross-subsidies (since that’s whats germane to the policy-making at our state legislature). But yes, receipts from the federal gas tax cover roughly 67% of the federal Highway Trust Fund. But, a certain portion of gas tax receipts is stripped away for multi-modal funding (not just transit – regional rail, aviation, and a few other items). In 2011, if you were to take all that revenue and put it back into the federal HTF, it would cover 88% of expenses (a ratio that continues to drop each year).

            The MVST devoted to transit is already taken out before the $358.7m figure listed in yellow above. So we’re all actually paying more in MVST but the ratios I discussed earlier hold true.

            When you factor those in, the direct user fees (those that scale with actual use) make up 56%. I guess my point still stands – if your family owns 2 average priced cars but drives them far less than the average Twin Citizen, they’re subsidizing those that drive average (or more) because of the hefty fixed costs of ownership through taxes & fees.

    2. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

      Also, Let’sGoLA did a nice (if basic) look at how different trends have impacted the gas tax’s ability to fund roads:

      Clearly, purchasing power (via inflation) dominates the annual (and cumulative) losses in the Hwy Trust Fund. MN has actually increased the gas tax several times since the federal gov’t last raised theirs in 1993 – MN went from 20 cents in 1993 to 28 cents in 2014, a 42.% increase while inflation went up 65%. Thus, inflation has had a lesser affect on the inability of MnDOT to cover their expenses, at least relative to stagnating VMT and increasing fuel economy.

      Also, cheap fuel has little to do with direct DOT funding. The gas tax is a flat rate per gallon, not a percent of sale price. You could make the claim that cheap fuel induces more driving than expensive fuel, prompting greater fuel use (and therefore gas tax revenue).

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