By Dave Van Hattum, Advocacy Director
The legislative session got off to an exciting start this month for Minnesotans who want a better transportation system. All three leading voices at the State Capitol—Governor Dayton, Majority Leader Bakk, and Speaker Daudt—have identified transportation as a 2015 legislative priority. And now, three weeks in, there are a range of funding proposals on the table.
On Monday, Governor Dayton announced a comprehensive, ten-year plan to fix Minnesota’s transportation problem. In the lead-up to the announcement, TLC members and other Minnesotans called on the Governor to propose a long-term solution with dedicated, statewide funding for transit, bicycling, and walking (along with anticipated funding for roads and bridges). Thanks to all who took action! Your multimodal messages ensured Governor Dayton's transportation proposal does invest in all modes across the state! While Transit for Livable Communities thinks more funding is needed for transit and safe streets, we applaud Governor Dayton’s leadership and agree: it's time for the state legislature to pass a comprehensive transportation bill.
Already this session, Senator Dibble (Senate Transportation Committee Chair) has introduced an excellent bill that would fund all modes statewide, and provide the critical new investments in transit, bicycling, and walking that TLC has been fighting for. This Senate bill (SF 87) very closely aligns with Move MN’s proposal. The bill includes the ¾-cent metro sales tax needed to grow the metro-area bus and rail system as well as dedicated funding for Greater Minnesota transit and for pedestrian and bicycling improvements statewide. It also includes a 6.5 percent wholesale gas tax dedicated to road and bridge needs across the state.
Meanwhile, leadership in the Minnesota House has put forth a short-term plan focused exclusively on road and bridge needs. The House bill (HF 4) recently introduced by Representative Kelly (House Transportation Committee Chair) relies on funding from the one-time budget surplus, unspecified efficiencies, and GO bonding. It unfortunately includes zero additional funding for transit or for safe walking and bicycling routes. House leaders, however, have signaled a willingness to look closely at the transportation funding deficit and to discuss solutions as the session progresses.
TLC and Move MN supporters recognize that a statewide transportation solution will require new revenue from modest tax increases. Per the Governor’s numbers, the average cost to residents in the Twin Cities would be about $6 per week. Residents in Greater Minnesota would be about $2 less per week, as the metro sales tax increase for transit is proposed for only the seven-county metropolitan region. To put it in context, these costs add up to considerably less than a monthly cell phone bill. And we know that this smart investment in Minnesota’s future will pay for itself many times over via a stronger economy, healthier communities, and better access to jobs, opportunity, and affordable transportation options.
With your help, we have worked successfully to make this the “Transportation Session.” Now we need to keep up momentum to convince the legislature to pass a strong bill that meets urgent needs in the metro region and in Greater Minnesota.
Get involved! On Thursday, February 12, join Transit for Livable Communities and Move MN for Transportation Day at the State Capitol! We will meet at the Minnesota Armory in Saint Paul from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. to hear from state and coalition leaders before delivering 10,000 postcards to lawmakers—reminding them that Minnesotans from across the state support a multimodal transportation solution in 2015. Let us help you schedule a February 12 meeting with your legislators so you can personally share your story about why transportation matters and why action is needed.
As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to send them our way.