ST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton is softening his opposition to Republicans' tax hike-free approach to funding transportation repairs.

Dayton and lawmakers have struggled for years to pass a major road and bridge funding package amid partisan divides over how to pay for it. Dayton and Democrats have pushed for a gas tax hike while Republicans have insisted the budget surplus and existing tax revenues are sufficient.

Dayton still says he thinks a 10-cent tax increase is the best route. But he said Thursday he wouldn't veto a bill without that funding mechanism.

That could pave the way to a deal with the Republican Legislature after more than four years of failed efforts. But the transportation funding debate goes hand-in-hand with the broader fight over a new state budget.