Concerned that state lawmakers won’t act to address Minnesota’s transportation needs, advocates delivered thousands of signatures to the state Capitol Feb. 12, after hearing a call to action from Governor Mark Dayton.
“The real question comes down to: What kind of Minnesota do we want in 10 years?” Dayton asked a packed room where members of The Transportation Alliance and MoveMn had gathered for Transportation Day. The groups include labor unions, businesses, local governments and community organizations from across the state.
“If you’re willing to accept things getting worse in 10 years . . . stick with the status quo,” Dayton said.
The governor has proposed $6 billion over the next ten years to address the state’s highway funding deficit, invest $2.356 billion in local government transportation projects, and provide $2.92 billion for Metro and Greater Minnesota transit systems, a plan that he says will keep Minnesota “socially viable, economically competitive” and prepared for the 1 million additional people projected to live here in 20 years.
His plan proposes to fund transportation through a 6.5 percent gross receipts tax on gasoline, an increase in vehicle registration fees, an additional $2 billion in trunk highway bonds and achieving savings through more efficient state transportation operations.
Praising Dayton’s proposal, Transportation Alliance Executive Director Margaret Donahoe said, “Not since the days of [former Governor] Rudy Perpich have we had a governor who was such a strong advocate for transportation.”
Perpich, who left office in 1990, was the last DFL governor prior to Dayton.
Dayton said $6 billion is needed to address the growing “inadequacy and lack of capacity” in the state’s transportation system, from roads riddled with potholes to highways that need widening and bridges in need of repair. His plan also supports transit and bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
In contrast, Republicans in the Minnesota House are proposing to invest only $750 million, without finding any new sources of revenue.
In his remarks, Dayton chastised them, saying, “Don’t fool the people of Minnesota that $750 million is going to take care of something when it’s not” and called on lawmakers “to face up to what has to be done.”
Dayton said, “I will do everything I possibly can, but I can’t carry the day by myself” and urged employers, workers and community leaders to speak up.
Advocates said the next several weeks will be key in keeping pressure on lawmakers to enact a comprehensive transportation plan. They delivered more than 10,000 postcards fom Minnesotans to their legislators calling for action on adequate transprtation funding .
“To win, we are going to have to tell the stories of real people whose lives are affected by our transportation system,” said Transportation Alliance President Russell Hess, who also is political director for the Laborers District Council of Minnesota and North Dakota.
“Legislators need to hear about your elderly neighbor who uses rural transit to get to their doctor’s appointment. They need to hear about how your family built up its construction company through three generations and if it is to survive to another, we need more funding. From me, they are going to hear how our members’ jobs in the construction industry support thousands of families, with great benefits and retirements.”
The MoveMN coalition notes that “Each year we delay fixing our transportation system increases the cost to taxpayers and puts drivers’ safety at risk.”
The coalition calls on the Legislature to enact a plan that is:
• Comprehensive to address, roads, bridges, transit, and bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
• Equitably balances the transportation needs of Greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities metro area.
• Is a long-term, sustainable funding solution that is gimmick-free and dedicated only to fixing transportation.