Legislature needs to take action on transportation

Minnesota’s 2008 legislative session began Feb. 12. Much has happened since we adjourned last May — the state’s economy has entered recession; a major interstate bridge collapsed; the Southeastern corner of our state was devastated by floods; other parts of our state struggled with drought. All of these dynamics will be factors in our aggressive agenda to restore greater opportunity and security for Minnesotans between now and our May 19 adjournment deadline. 

The tragic collapse of the I-35W bridge brought about a renewed focus on the pressures on our transportation system and longstanding failure to invest in our state’s crumbling infrastructure. Our topmost concern is for the victims and their families. Legislation is quickly moving forward in both the House and the Senate to create a “Survivor’s Compensation Fund” to try and restore the lives of those most affected as best we can.

A comprehensive solution to our transportation predicament is desperately needed. Governor Pawlenty vetoed last year’s historic, progressive, bipartisan transportation package, eliminating vital new transit and transportation funds. Look for a new bill early in the session that can gain bipartisan support and overcome the opposition recently restated by the Governor and House Republican leadership. In addition to repairing our state’s aging infrastructure, these investments will provide tremendous economic opportunities by creating jobs and easing congestion and gridlock, as well as helping combat global warming.

The importance of transportation to the state’s economic vitality is especially important this year. Staggering job losses in Minnesota, a large budget deficit and problems in the real estate industry have prompted the state economist to label Minnesota’s economy as “in recession.” As chair of the Transit Division of the Transportation Committee, I will continue to be one of the Senate leaders on this important effort.

The Legislature is very serious about growing economic opportunity for Minnesotans by focusing on transportation, tax fairness and other infrastructure investments. The resources made available through capital bonding will deliver investment dollars to infrastructure projects across the state, creating new vigor in our colleges and universities, transit systems, bridges, roads, environment and cultural amenities, and it will generate hundreds of new jobs. Movement toward a fairer way to raise revenue could spur millions of dollars of private investment in existing businesses and new bioscience and green-sector companies, as well as provide some level of property tax relief. The governor vetoed a $377 million property tax relief package in 2007 for political reasons; we are very hopeful that the past several months’ developments have made it very clear how urgently Minnesotans need a leader who invests in the good of the state.

We will be focusing this year on ways to reign in the foreclosure crisis and assist communities and families in crisis. The real estate slide contributes greatly to Minnesota’s current recession, and many parts of Minneapolis have seen the dramatic effects of a struggling housing market.  For the health of our state and all of its homeowners, we understand the urgency of dealing with these problems.

I also will be focused on a number of other economic, social and environmental justice issues. Among them are housing and homelessness, clean and renewable energy, greater access to health care, and clean water. If you have any questions or concerns, or would like to visit me at the Capitol, please contact me at [email protected], or 651-296-4191.

 

State Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-60) represents neighborhoods in Southwest and Downtown.