By Dave Van Hattum, Senior Policy Advocate
Supporters of comprehensive transportation funding filled the Capitol Rotunda at a lively rally Wednesday morning.
Comprehensive transit /transportation funding bills are still alive in the Minnesota Senate and House. The metro area transit funding package that TLC has advocated includes substantial new funding for buses, rail and bicycle and walking options. There have been numerous ups and downs (as is typical for a major bill). A Senate bill being voted on today, however, gives us renewed hope. See more detail below.
Transit advocates appreciate Governor Dayton’s leadership. His proposed budget includes a ½ cent increase in the metro area sales tax for transit. There is consensus by Capitol experts, however, that this plan will only be passed by the House and Senate if it is combined with significant new funding for roads and bridges. The logic for this is that Minnesota legislators have always addressed transportation as a statewide issue. Greater Minnesota legislators are more likely to vote for a package that addresses road, bridge, and transit needs in their districts.
Moving separately in the House is a capital investment bill championed by Representative Hausman that includes significant bonding for public transit, Safe Routes to School, local roads, bridges, and trails. The Senate has yet to take up a bonding bill this session, so the path for adoption is still unclear.
Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak with supporters at today’s rally for transportation funding.
Transit advocates are joining with proponents of funding for roads and bridges, working hard at the Capitol, reaching legislators through phone banks, and hosting a Rally at the Capitol today.
All these efforts reflect the strong support for major transportation investments this session. We believe the Governor and legislative leaders (speaker Thissen in the House, and Majority Leader Bakk in the Senate) should pass into law a balanced transportation bill that addresses the statewide need for transit, roads, bridges, and bicycle and pedestrian connections.
In her remarks at today’s rally, transit advocate and North Minneapolis resident Kenya McKnight emphasized that all communities need transit options, safe roads, and bicycling and walking connections.
The bill supported by TLC and the Transit for a Stronger Economy coalition earlier this session included increased transit funding as well as substantial new dedicated funding for bicycle and pedestrian improvements in the metro area. We’re happy to report that these elements remain in place in both the Senate transportation bill (which will be heard Wednesday evening in committee) and in a House bill that is working its way through various committees.
The resounding message at the Capitol today: transportation is essential for a stronger economy, transportation bills are jobs bills.
Senate Transportation Bill includes the following:
• ½-cent increase in the metro area sales tax for transit (buses and trains), which will rapidly accelerate the build out a 21-st century transit system.
• Dedicated funding for bicycle and pedestrian improvements, and planning studies for streetcars.
• $10 million additional funding per year for Greater Minnesota transit.
• A tax at the distributor level on fuel (this exists already in more than a dozen other states) combined with a reduction of the gas tax.
After the rally, TLC and Transit for a Stronger Economy coalition partners headed to Governor Dayton’s office to deliver hundreds of postcards and messages supporting increased funding for transit and safe, accessible bicycling and walking.
The message is clear: we need a comprehensive transportation bill and the Senate has a good plan. The Senate bill will be heard in committees over the next week. We are hopeful that the House will take up a similar bill. Please help us keep the pressure to pass a strong and balanced bill this session (take action here). It’s essential for a stronger economy for all Minnesotans.