As the Minnesota Legislature continues working to produce a fair, balanced budget that puts our state on sound fiscal footing, it’s important to remember we must also make smart investments to drive long-term growth and economic development.
An updated economic forecast released in late February revealed that Minnesota faces a $627 million deficit over the next two years, which is a 40 percent reduction from previous projections. In addition, we owe our schools about $800 million in funding shifts used to resolve previous budget deficits.
In order to set our state up for long-term success, the Legislature must figure out how to pay for expanded investments in areas like education and public transportation.
While increasing taxes on the richest Minnesotans is sure to be part of the equation, lawmakers will also weigh a proposal from Governor Dayton to increase the metro area transit sales tax from 0.25 percent to 0.75 percent.
The Governor’s proposal is expected to generate an estimated $791 million through 2017 to pay for new light rail, bus rapid transit, and improved service across the board. This is a serious investment in mass transit that is long overdue.
The metro area business community understands that a 21st century transportation system will help us compete for jobs with comparable cities such as Denver, Dallas, and Boston who already have a 1 percent sales tax directed to transit. The Minneapolis, St. Paul and Twin West chambers of commerce have each said transit expansion is needed to make the region economically competitive.
According to the Metropolitan Council, the seven-county metro region is projected to gain over 890,000 people over the next three decades. We need to make sure residents have efficient, affordable options to travel to downtown Minneapolis for work, shopping, and recreation.
I am hopeful that lawmakers will work with the public and the business community over the coming weeks to produce solutions that support the kind of growth required to keep downtown Minneapolis and our entire state competitive for years to come. I believe the answer is a serious investment in mass transit.
If you want to share your ideas and feedback about how we can improve transit, please feel free to contact me by phone at (651) 296-8659, by email at [email protected], or by postal mail at 423 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, Minnesota 55155. You can also follow me on Twitter at @RaymondDehn or ‘like’ my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/RepRaymondDehn.
State Representative, District 59B