In the seven weeks since its initial House approval in late March, the DFL found 7 more votes in a bill passage earlier this week that would raise the state's gas tax by a nickel per gallon to a potential (though unlikely) veto-proof majority.
In March, there were 4 DFL defectors in opposition to the bill, and 5 GOP defectors in support of it. On Monday, there were just 2 DFL defectors voting against and 7 GOP defectors voting in favor of the legislation. The net result is a 90-43 majority on a bill destined to be vetoed by Governor Tim Pawlenty.
A recent poll sponsored by Minnesota Public Radio found a bare majority of Gopher State residents (51 percent) supported the 5-cent per gallon increase to pay for improvements to roads and bridges. Forty-five percent of Minnesotans opposed the increase.
Despite Pawlenty's veto of the legislation on Tuesday, the MPR poll does not suggest there is overwhelming opposition to the increase, even among his Republican base. Just 50 percent of Republicans polled opposed the nickel per gallon increase (with 43 percent in favor of it). This is a rather striking finding in the MPR poll, conducted May 7-9, considering the recent nationwide increase in gasoline prices during the past month.
Pawlenty, however, remains undaunted by the 90 votes stitched together by the DFL majority to gain the bill's passage. And rightfully so. The Governor only needs 1 of the 7 GOP-ers who voted for the legislation to switch his vote to sustain his veto - provided the DFL does not pick up any more support from its caucus along the way.