Senator John Hoffman: Republican transportation investments; inadequate doesn’t do it justice

It’s clear, both from the massive potholes that pockmark my commute to and from work every day, and from my conversations with people in my district – that everyone agrees about the need for transportation funding. Both DFLers and Republicans acknowledge the shortfall of more than $16 billion over the next 20 years that’s needed to meet the growing demands being placed on our roads and bridges.

And yet, with so much we agree on – I can’t find a good answer as to why House and Senate Republicans are choosing to invest a mere $372 million over the next two years in transportation. I won’t mince words, that investment is peanuts. It’s also less than a third of what experts say Minnesota should be investing annually in order to maintain and improve our system.

More than half of Minnesota’s roads are over 50 years old, and 40% of the state’s bridges are more than 40 years old. In the next three years, one in five Minnesota roads will pass their useful life, making it increasingly difficult for Minnesota businesses to move their goods to market and for Minnesotans to commute to and from work and school. The need for a long-term transportation solution is clear, and it is urgent. And $186 million per year ($372 over the biennium) just won’t cut it.

Not only is the investment in transportation woefully inadequate, Republicans have chosen to continue their habit of punishing transit with a level of hatred I don’t understand. The House Republican’s bill cuts deeply into transit, resulting in a 10 percent reduction in bus service across the metro. That means students at our local community colleges who rely on buses to get to class, may have a longer ride, or perhaps their stop won’t get service at all anymore. It also means that any hopes we may have had for the Bottineau light rail line – are completely dashed.

All of these cuts and inadequate investments – come at a time of economic prosperity. Let’s not forget that our state is operating with a $1.6 billion surplus. But when it comes to caring for critical infrastructure – that literally everyone in Minnesota uses, Republicans have decided that tax credits for business owners are more important.

It also means that by giving away $1 billion in tax spending for wealthy Minnesotans – that we are taking money from our most vulnerable, from our kids and from grandma and grandpa. That’s what these tax cuts are competing against. There are no “special dedicated funds” for the big stuff like education and long term care. According to our state demographer for the first time in state history, our elderly population is greater than our K-12 population – this creates competition in our spending priorities. When you hear $1 billion in tax cuts, what you don’t hear is that it’s that much less money that will be spent on your kid’s classroom, and on grandma. The choices here are stark, and by choosing to put wealthy business owners above all other Minnesotans – we’re seeing where Republicans priorities are at.

 

This commentary was first published by Press and News

Senator John Hoffman
John Hoffman represents District 36, which includes portions of Anoka and Hennepin County.

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