Lawmakers need to find common ground on transportation

The legislative session is now a month old.  The Governor and both legislative bodies have released their budgets and transportation proposals.  The transportation initiatives of Governor Dayton and the House Republicans couldn’t be further apart.  On one hand we have a balanced approach that benefits all Minnesotans, on the other we have a short-term, quick fix approach that provides half the funding that was passed in 2014 and leaves transit out entirely. 

If funding remains flat, Minnesota is projected to fall short of our transportation and transit needs by $6 billion over the next ten years.  Governor Dayton’s plan raises the required funds in an equitable way.  The money needed to support road and bridge maintenance and construction will come from vehicle owners, with an increase in the wholesale fuel tax, raising the price by about $0.16 a gallon, and a small increase in license tab fees phased in over four years.  A half cent increase in the sales tax in the metro area will fund transit, bike and pedestrian projects in the metro.  General Fund dollars are used to fund transit in the rest of the state. 

In contrast to the Governor’s plan, the House Republicans propose a one-time spending increase of $200 million, which would only go for local roads.  They also propose spending down 90 percent of the Trunk Highway Reserve Fund and ask MnDOT to do more with what they have.  House Republicans have proposed a short sighted transportation package that neglects transit and doesn’t tackle our long-term needs.

Road and bridges are important, but so is transit.  Mass transit systems in dense metropolitan areas move large quantities of people in an efficient manner.  People depend on transit to get to school or work, run errands, and to access vital public services like health care.  It’s wrong to ignore transit and leave the people who use it behind like the House Republicans are proposing we do.

For too long we’ve put off addressing our long-term needs with a solid transportation and transit investment plan.  This past week the Governor put forward a thoughtful plan to meet those needs.  In this legislative session I will seek to support a balanced, long-term transportation bill that meets the needs of all Minnesotans.

Rep. Dehn encourages constituents to contact him with any questions, comments, concerns, or ideas. He can be reached by phone at 651-296-8659 or by email at [email protected]. Constituents can also visit his legislative page and sign up for email updates.