Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, successfully amended a transportation funding bill that saved Greater Minnesota from a transit funding cut of 25 percent. The proposed $8 million cut would have meant the loss of 101,000 transit service hours in Greater Minnesota, equivalent to the complete loss of transit service in East Grand Forks, Granite Falls, Hibbing, Morris, and Rochester.
Sen. Sheran’s amendment restored the cut by withholding payments from suburban transit providers. These providers are currently sitting on significant excess reserves, far beyond the levels recommended by the state’s legislative auditor. The amendment would redirect funding from the statewide motor vehicle sales tax to Greater Minnesota transit providers.
“Bus service in Greater Minnesota is critical to the vitality of our communities and the quality-of-life of many seniors and disabled Minnesotans,” said Sen. Sheran. “The proposed cuts to Greater Minnesota transit would have been devastating for the rural parts of our state, and would have jeopardized the independence of many vulnerable residents. It made absolutely no sense to me to make these harmful cuts in Greater Minnesota, while allowing suburban transit providers to sit on exorbitant cash reserves.”
Sen. Sheran said she was pleased to receive bipartisan support for her amendment, including Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls), but was disappointed that several of her colleagues from southern Minnesota opposed the provision. Several senators from southern Minnesota, including Sen. Mike Parry (R-Waseca), Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Fairmont), Sen. David Senjem (R-Rochester) and Sen. Al DeKruif (R-Madison Lake) all voted against the amendment. In fact, Sen. Parry, who sits on the Senate Transportation Committee, even stated that he had never seen the Office of Transit report that stated the Republican-proposed budget cuts would have reduced rural transit service by 50%. Even after he was made aware of the effect, he still voted against the effort to mitigate the negative impact on rural transit.
“Rural transit routes take seniors and disabled residents to medical appointments, students to classes, and hard-working Minnesotans to their jobs,” said Sen. Sheran. “Cutting these services in half would have terrible consequences for our residents and our communities. While I’m glad we were able to take this terrible cut out of the bill, I wish I would have seen more support from my colleagues in southern Minnesota.”
Sen. Sheran noted that Greater Minnesota transit funding is still under attack. The House version of the bill still includes severe cuts to Greater Minnesota transit. A Senate-House conference committee will still need to resolve the differences between the two proposals.
Additionally, Sen. Sheran’s amendment only restored Greater Minnesota transit funding for the next two years. The Republican bill makes a permanent cut to transit funding, meaning lawmakers will need to revisit the issue during the next budget cycle, or else transit services will be slashed starting in 2014.
For more information, contact Sen. Sheran at (651) 296-6153 or firstname.lastname@example.org.