By Dave Van Hattum, Senior Policy Advocate
“The future of transportation in Minnesota and the funding for it have to be among the 2015 legislative session’s top priorities.” (Governor Mark Dayton, April 30, 2014)
For Transit for Livable Communities, our members, and our allies in the Move MN coalition—who worked together this past legislative session to make transportation investment a priority—this statement from Governor Dayton is a measure of success, but it is also a rallying cry for the year ahead.
Growing the Movement
Over the last half year, the Move MN coalition grew to over 180 organizations, businesses, and associations and gathered support from more than 20 cities, 500 townships, and 80 counties. Transportation interests vary widely by geography, by mode, by sector. Nevertheless, Move MN coalition members successfully united around one comprehensive legislative proposal, guided by the key principle of investing in all modes statewide.
Move MN united a broad and diverse coalition of groups from around the state. Picture here (L to R), coalition members from AFSCME, Fresh Energy, the American Heart Association, and TLC rally together in the Capitol Rotunda.
Moving Legislation Forward
The transportation bills passed by the House and Senate Transportation Committees (HF 2395 and SF 2107) aligned closely with our Move MN proposal, and included funding for transit, roads and bridges, and bicycling and walking throughout the state. The ¾-cent sales tax for metro-area transit, included in the bills, would fund the transit vision TLC has advanced for over a decade. The bills also included the first dedicated funding for bicycle and pedestrian connections in Minnesota. Passing these bills out of both committees was a definitive step forward; similar legislation did not make it through the House committee in 2013.
House and Senate Transportation Committee Chairs, Sen. Scott Dibble (L) and Rep. Frank Hornstein (R), were strong champions at the legislature this year. Both of their committees successfully passed bills that would fund transit, bicycling, walking, roads, and bridges statewide.
Transit for Livable Communities, our members, and Move MN coalition partners pushed hard to keep up momentum for this essential legislation this session. And when the legislature responded by directing only a small amount of money to transportation while sidelining a comprehensive package, we pushed back.
After a successful outreach campaign this spring, state senators and representatives across the state received nearly 1400 letters about Move MN from constituents calling for more than a band-aid solution to fix Minnesota’s transportation system. These letters—along with thousands of Move MN postcards and petition signatures, dozens of letters to the editor, weekly phone banks, and numerous stakeholder meetings, rallies, and press conferences throughout the 2014 session—sent the resounding message that Minnesotans need and expect sustainable, long-term funding to address inadequate transit and bike/pedestrian connections, deficient bridges, and aging roads.
No More Band-Aids for Transportation: Thanks to all who wrote their legislators and delivered letters at the Capitol in May--and to all who took action and volunteered their time on the Move MN campaign this session!
While the political winds ultimately prevented a transportation bill from getting to the finish line at the Capitol this year, we have built a strong foundation of support and have positioned transportation funding as the unfinished business of the session.
As Senate Transportation Committee Chair Scott Dibble affirmed last week, “Everyone associated with Move MN should be extremely pleased with how far we’ve come in building both the policy and political case for passing a substantial, comprehensive leap forward for transportation in Minnesota.”
Minnesota's transportation problems aren't going to disappear, so neither is our call for a real solution. If we want to see success in the coming year, coalition partners and TLC members will need to expand efforts leading up to the next legislative session and also ensure that transportation is a top issue on the campaign trail this fall.
To that end, TLC and Move MN are gearing up for a busy summer. We’re headed to fairs, festivals, bike rides, transit stops, and project openings around the state. And we’re calling on you to help educate and engage the public about transportation needs in your area and to build a broader, stronger movement for legislative action in 2015. Together we can make sure every state legislator knows investment in transportation is both urgent and inevitable. Thanks for standing with us as the fight continues!
Volunteers needed: TLC and the Sierra Club will be talking up Move MN at the Green Line grand opening on Saturday, June 14. We’d love your help! Sign up to volunteer.
Special thanks to Cailin Rogers, campaign organizer, for her work with TLC and Move MN during the 2014 session!