Shutdown could translate to short road construction season


Transportation committee chairs announced Thursday that they will tour the state in the coming days to encourage Gov. Mark Dayton to re-examine his veto of the omnibus transportation finance bill.

Rep. Mike Beard (R-Shakopee) and Sen. Joe Gimse (R-Willmar) plan to travel to a construction project site along Highway 14 in Owatonna on Friday, and said they will visit Minnesota Department of Transportation offices, road and infrastructure project sites and construction businesses around the state over the next few days. The aim of the trip is to discuss a proposal to keep transportation projects moving in the state regardless of a government shutdown.

 “We typically have six-seven months in order to accomplish what other states in this country have all year to accomplish,” said Gimse, who chairs the Senate Transportation Finance and Policy Committee and sponsored the omnibus transportation finance bill with Beard, who chairs the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee. “We can’t afford to have our MnDOT employees and road contractors on the sidelines during this critical time. The summer season is the only time they have,” he said.

The bill Beard and Gimse propose represents about 2 percent of General Fund spending. It would leave out 1.4 percent of General Fund spending dedicated to transit, and appropriate the 98.6 percent that is generated directly through dedicated motor vehicle sales taxes.

The hope, Beard said, is that the governor will, at the very least, call “a very short” special session to consider a version of the bill that would continue transportation projects across the state this summer in the event of a government shutdown.

“We think within hours (of a special session convening) we could pass (the bill) within our respective bodies and get it to the governor and we can maintain continuity, the safety aspects, keep our MnDOT employees working and keep our private contractors working throughout this summer season,” Beard said.