By Dave Van Hattum, Senior Policy Advocate
Taking action: This week at the Capitol, supporters called on legislators to fund transportation now.
In a surprise move a week ago, freshman senator Melisa Franzen offered an amendment on the Senate floor to the Omnibus Transportation Funding bill to provide new funding for roads and transit. That amendment passed and, soon after, the entire bill was adopted. HF 1444 (previously SF 1173) includes a phased-in half-cent increase in the metro area sales tax for transit, and a phased-in increase of 5 cents in the state gas tax. The amended bill also includes a small percentage for bicycle and pedestrian connections, and increases transit funding for Greater Minnesota, meeting 70 percent of the need. Together, these investments will put Minnesota’s transportation system on the right path for the future. The question now is whether these elements make it into law this session.
TLC and the Transit for a Stronger Economy coalition have advocated all session for a funding bill that will greatly expand transit, and safe, accessible bicycling and walking connections. This past Wednesday, the coalition gathered outside the Governor’s office and marched to Speaker Thissen’s office. The walls of the Capitol echoed with voices calling, “Transportation Now!”
This week, the Minnesota House and Senate have been conferencing the bold Senate bill with a “lights on” House Transportation funding bill that offers no increase in funding, but rather keeps status quo transportation budgets in place. The Conference Committee is comprised of the following legislators.
There is still hope that end-of-session negotiations will get the job done on transportation. One possibility is that the half-cent sales tax will be packaged with $300 million in trunk highway bonds and as yet unnamed additional funding for roads. Another funding effort is a House bonding bill, championed by Rep. Alice Hausman, with funding for Southwest light rail and other key transit projects.
All session, Governor Dayton has remained committed to his budget proposal, which includes a half-cent increase in the metro sales tax to significantly expand the metro area transit system. Let’s thank the Governor (click here or call 651-201-3400) and inspire him and legislative leaders to get the job done in the final few days.
The Transit for a Stronger Economy coalition will remain engaged in legislative action right up to the final bell—in this case, Monday, May 20. We encourage other transit, bicycling, and walking advocates to do the same, and to keep the pressure on your elected officials through the weekend!
Photo Credit: Val Escher