By Hilary Reeves, Communications Director
You’ve heard a lot over the last year or more about the Transit for a Stronger Economy campaign, a pretty amazing collaboration of more than 50 organizations, all joining behind a common goal to increase funding in this state for transit, bicycling, walking, and better accommodations for people with disabilities.
Transit for a Stronger Economy came very close in the 2013 legislative session. The Senate approved a bill that increased funding (via a phased-in gas tax and metro-area sales tax) for transit (bus and rail), bicycling and walking projects, and road and bridge projects statewide.
The House, however, would not go along. There was not enough support statewide to get it done. Instead, the House passed a transportation bill that mostly kept funding at current levels.
Transportation funding became the “unfinished business” of 2013.
“The Speaker [of the House, Paul Thissen,] also said the 2014 priority list should include more infrastructure funding, especially for transportation and transit projects” —West Central Tribune, May 2013
"In order for the Legislature and governor to responsibly move forward on transportation, key political players in the state—particularly the business community, labor unions, farm and commodity groups, companies that build road and transit infrastructure, and local governments—need to play a much more active role in pressing for transportation funding. . . . We must move forward together as a city, region and state to upgrade our transportation systems. . . .The time to act is now." —Sen. Scott Dibble & Rep. Frank Hornstein (Star Tribune, Sept. 2013)
"To me the only thing really holding up the statewide effort is, the proponents of the metro mass transit have done an excellent job of detailing their proposals and routes and timelines and costs, whereas the highway department’s plan really was not as well-developed yet." —Gov. Mark Dayton (Politics in Minnesota, May 2013)
What’s next? How do we mobilize to get the big victory the state needs to set all Minnesotans on a strong economic path? We know what’s at stake—creating good jobs, ensuring access to jobs. Making it more affordable and sustainable to get where we need to go.
A new campaign is brewing, called Move MN. It is starting out with a statewide vision for transit and roads, bridges and bicycling and walking. The campaign believes that to win in 2014, a transportation funding package must be:
Comprehensive. Any transportation funding package must include funding for roads and highways, transit, bike and pedestrian systems throughout Minnesota for both the state and local systems. In addition, the state must work to continually improve the efficiency of transportation construction and operations.
Balanced. Any transportation funding package must be balanced across transportation modes and between Greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area. We support developing a transportation system that serves all Minnesotans equitably.
Sustainable/Gimmick-Free. Transportation funding solutions must be long-term and sustainable, and must grow with the economy to meet the state’s growing transportation needs. Bonding or borrowing is not a suitable substitute to sustainable revenue for transportation. Bonding should only supplement additional revenue.
Dedicated. New funding must be dedicated to transportation.
Transit for Livable Communities has signed on to this new coalition. And we are encouraging all members of Transit for a Stronger Economy (and other organizations) to do the same. We sit on the Move MN steering committee and successfully achieved strong representation there by additional organizations focused on the ways transportation investments affect our environment and health, as well as access to jobs by low-income communities. An official launch of the campaign is planned for January. Stay tuned!