BNSF uses ‘Friends’ network to fight higher taxes

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ST. PAUL, Minn. – BNSF Railway is asking participants in its “Friends of BNSF” program to speak up against proposed higher taxes on railroads in Minnesota. In March, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton proposed new taxes on railroads to help pay for rail safety projects.

Calling traffic congestion caused by trains a statewide problem, Dayton proposal calls for $33 million a year in railroad taxes for 10 years to help fund safety improvements at crossings and improved emergency response training. By taxing rail cars and levying an annual fee on Minnesota’s four major freight railroads, the state would net $330 million over the next decade, mostly for improvements at crossings. Dayton’s plan would also fund increased training for first responders, including a new statewide training facility.

Dayton also wants to spend $76 million from a bonding bill this year to build underpasses or overpasses in Moorhead, Prairie Island, Coon Rapids, and Willmar.

But railroads have rejected the call for more taxes. When Dayton launched his proposal, BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said the company believes Dayton’s proposed taxes violate federal law “because they single out railroads for discriminatory taxation.”

Now BNSF has asked for help in the fight from its Friends organization. In an email to members, the railroad said the proposals would create nearly $100 million in new taxes per year for the state’s railroads. “The proposed tax increases would impact Minnesota’s farmers, mining and grain companies, and retailers who use rail transportation to cost-effectively move products, and ultimately the costs will be passed onto consumers,” BNSF said.

The railroad has launched a new website through the Minnesota Regional Railroad Association, www.mnrailroads.com, and is asking members to visit the site and send an email to their state senator and representative and urge them to oppose new taxes on railroads.

The railroad launched Friends of BNSF in September 2011. It is a community website for people who have an interest in or a connection to BNSF or its predecessor companies and has more than 43,000 registered members. The site features historical articles and photos, a gallery of members’ photos, and company updates and background information. For more information, go to www.friendsofbnsf.com.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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