Transit is a GO in Governor’s budget
Barb Thoman, Executive Director
The Governor’s State of the State address last night focused on providing
leadership to solve problems for Minnesota and end the chronic deficits we have
faced over the last several years. Transit for Livable Communities, a member of
the Invest in Minnesota coalition, believes that increased revenue must be part
of the solution to provide for a future that works for the residents of this state.
The Governor last night spoke of delivering jobs and support for business to provide those jobs. More transit does this. He spoke about delivering efficient services, maintaining a healthy environment, and efforts to keep seniors in their homes and to make college more affordable. More transit helps do this.
Minnesotans by a vast majority support increased investment in transit—as a way to reduce traffic, create jobs, and help make budgets balance for working families, students, and seniors.
The Governor’s plan would broaden the sales tax and specifically fund transit expansion through an increase in the sales tax. While it does not go the whole distance, the Governor’s budget would put in place a stable base of funding for metro area transit —bus and rail.
In the case of transit, there are clear indications that investing more will have a high return on investment for the state.
As noted in our response to the Governor’s budget (see below), our coalition plan would do more.
The Governor has funded his vision. To those who criticize elements of his plan, remember that to embrace the vision for better transit in Minnesota without embracing the funding needed is false, empty leadership. Doing nothing also is not an option. It is time to act. We need transit for a stronger economy.
Original Response to Governor Dayton's Budget Proposal:
Governor Dayton’s budget proposal today sends a clear signal that transit is essential to building a stronger economy. It includes a mix of cuts and new revenue, including for transit. The overall plan takes two major steps forward.
Firstly, the Governor’s budget recognizes that building out the regional transit system—bus and rail—will create jobs, attract top employers, and make it more affordable to get to work and school. The build out of the regional system will create 30,000 jobs, according to the Itasca Project report (pdf). The experience of the Central Corridor shows that subcontractors and workers come from all over the state.
Secondly, the Governor’s attention to the overall budget structure hopefully will mean that we can count on steady and expanding transit service, rather than funding battles that have resulted in whittling away of bus service. A stable funding platform eliminates uncertainty for everyone—for businesses and for individual families planning their budgets.
The Governor’s budget includes broadening the base of the sales tax and adding a new ¼ cent sales tax in the metro. These funds would:
- expand bus service by 1% each year—the first increase to basic bus service in a decade, and
- fund the Southwest LRT, Bottineau LRT, Gateway LRT or BRT, I-35W South BRT, up to 12 Rapid Bus or streetcar corridors, and up to 5 additional highway BRT lines.
This is a huge step forward in recognizing that we must increase access to transit for Minnesota families, seniors, and students. We know that transportation is the second largest household expense (after housing) and more people are turning to transit as gas prices remain high. We also know that more people are bicycling and walking for transportation.
We do have some concerns in these areas. As we dig deeper into the governor’s budget and continue working at the legislature, TLC and the Transit for a Stronger Economy coalition will be looking to make sure:
- that greater Minnesota transit service is not left behind. Transit use is growing in Greater Minnesota and makes a huge difference to seniors, people with disabilities, and to residents in cities like Duluth, Saint Cloud, and Rochester, and
- that cities and counties have funds for providing sidewalks, safer crossings, bike routes, and access for people with disabilities.
The Governor’s budget sends a very strong signal about the importance of transit. It’s a great floor for the session ahead, but it’s not quite the whole structure we need for Minnesota to thrive.