The Senate Omnibus Transportation Bill passed its first committee stop this week. The bill siphons funding away from the General Fund to pay for transportation needs typically financed by dedicated transportation sources, provides no new dedicated funding to transportation, essentially zeros out the Met Council budget (including Metro Transit and Metro Mobility) until 2025, and earmarks money to almost 30 infrastructure projects at varying levels of readiness.
The bill shifts $68.3 million in transportation-related obligations from dedicated transportation funding in the highway user tax distribution fund (HUTDF) and trunk highway fund (TH) to the general fund. The effect of this transfer is less funding for other critical budget areas like public education or health care that do not have their own sources of dedicated revenue that transportation has through the gas tax and other sales taxes.
The omnibus essentially zeros out the Met Council budget for Metro Transit and Metro Mobility for three years. Metro Transit’s budget would be cut by $32.6 million in each of the next three fiscal years, leaving the agency to operate on just $5,000 per year. It cuts Metro Mobility, which provides essential rides to senior citizens and other eligible residents, by $55.9 million over those three years, also leaving the agency to operate on $5,000 per year. Metro Transit and Metro Mobility need sustainable general fund resources to continue to provide the services Minnesotans expect and our regional economic vitality depends upon.
Finally, the bill earmarks 29 transportation projects statewide at varying degrees of project readiness. Politically earmarked projects take resources away from projects that have been scored by MnDOT to be project-ready and in some cases it would sequester funds into the future that could be used today. (SF 1159)