Senate Republican Transportation Budget could harm local transit projects; cut bus routes
ST. PAUL, Minn – Sen. John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin) is calling out Senate Republicans for not being transparent in the unveiling of their transportation budget last week. The $400 million bill is funded through a shift from the state’s general fund from auto-related sales taxes and borrows $325 million in bonding. Additionally, the bill includes no funding for transit and even creates a provision to act as a roadblock to any transit projects currently in the works, Sen. Hoffman says that puts transit options in the northwest suburbs in jeopardy.
“This is not an honest budget. Not only is the small amount of funding allotted to transportation taken from other sources that are usually used to fund our schools or senior services, it completely ignores transit. In fact, by leaving transit funding out of the bill, Republicans are essentially blocking any light trail projects currently under development – that includes our Bottineau light rail project and SWLRT and also starves Metro Transit, meaning our bus lines will see a drastic cut in service,” said Sen. Hoffman.
The Senate transportation budget includes $0 for transit. This will not help the current $65 million transit funding deficit, resulting in a fare increase and a 17 percent reduction in service.
On Thursday the Senate also passed a neutral REAL ID bill that will allow Minnesotans to board flights and visit their loved ones on military bases without unrelated and controversial language that stymied the bill earlier this session. The bill brings Minnesota into compliance with REAL ID requirements and passed on a bipartisan vote.
Background Information on the 2017 Senate Transportation Bill
- Shifts a portion of the auto parts and repairs tax revenue to the General Fund, which costs $200 million per year and increases to $250 million per year next biennium
- Borrows $325 million in bonding
- Rededicates $32 million in motor vehicle lease sales tax revenue from the General Fund to the Highway User Tax Distribution Fund (HUTDF)
- Cancels state light rail transit operations funding, potentially ending the Green Line Extension, Blue Line Extension, and any future light rail projects
- Counts $466 million in federal funds as new spending, when those are funds the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) already receives and accounts for
- Counts $117 million in MnDOT “flex spending” as new spending when those funds are already slated to be used on road and bridge repair
Sen. Hoffman is supportive of a long-term comprehensive funding transportation plan, not one that borrows from different account and uses shifts to fund priorities. Likewise, Sen. Hoffman supports funding roads, bridges and transit across the state, a plan that doesn’t pit parts of Minnesota against each other.