Map of the Day: State Highway Taxes vs. State Highway Spending

Here are two maps showing the same basic dynamic: for all its talk of geographic inequality, rural Minnesota has been getting more than its fair share of road money for a long time. These two maps come from the excellent Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, which is one of the many groups attempting to create a more sustainable policy landscape at the state capitol.

Here you go:

Donor-Donee-County-Map-by-Amount-12-24-14 Donor-Donee-County-Map-by-Percent-12-24-14


Here’s an explanation of the methodology from Jim Erkel, the director of the Land Use and Transportation Program for MCEA:

In June 2014, House Research updated a report it maintains on major state taxes and state aids.  The update added numbers for 2011.  The report contains tables that break out how much each county pays in taxes and receives in aid.  Because the report includes all of the state taxes that flow into the highway user tax distribution fund and the road-related funds that flow back to the county and its cities and townships, it is possible to compare the amounts and see which counties support the system and which counties are subsidized by it.  The comparison only relates to non-state trunk highway funds — the county state aid fund, the municipal state aid fund, and the five percent set-aside (which flows through accounts in CSAH).

For each county, we summed the road-related county, city, and township aids.  Then, we calculated how much each county contributed.  We summed the amounts from each county for the gas tax, registration fees, and the motor vehicle sales tax.  (Only part of MVST was included because the dedication of ‘no more than 60%’ to HUTDF resulting from the 2006 constitutional amendment was still being ramped up in 2011.)  From that amount, we deducted slightly less than 2% for the amounts taken off the top of HUTDF for DNR, refunds, and administration.  We then deducted 95% of 62% (58.9%) which represents the amount that is allocated to the state trunk highway fund.  We then compared the resulting amount to what it received and mapped the differences in terms of ultimate amount and by percent.  The result suggests that counties (and their cities and towns) in Greater Minnesota aren’t being neglected but rather that the system has been skewed to their benefit for some time.

Also, the following caveat: Only looking at CSAH is more complicated than the ‘non-state trunk highway fund’ dough but we figured out a workable formula from the information in the report and will be cranking out the maps soon.

Thanks to them for their excellent cartography.

Bill Lindeke

About Bill Lindeke

Pronouns: he/him

Bill Lindeke has writing blogging about sidewalks and cities since 2005, ever since he read Jane Jacobs. He is a lecturer in Urban Studies at the University of Minnesota Geography Department, the Cityscape columnist at Minnpost, and has written multiple books on local urban history. He was born in Minneapolis, but has spent most of his time in St Paul. Check out Twitter @BillLindeke or on Facebook.