Senator Ron Latz Responds to False Attacks on SWLRT

GOP killed road and bridge funding across the state because they wouldn’t let metro counties pay for its own transit.

The South West Light Rail Transit (SWLRT) project has been subjected to willful disinformation by those who oppose transit categorically. The false arguments about the legislative process allow Republicans to obscure the truth and their shaky opposition. We need to secure a percentage of SWLRT funding to allow for a nearly $1 billion federal contribution, funding that has already been paid by Minnesotans in the form of federal taxes. The deadline to access that money is rapidly approaching and if our elected leaders delay we will miss the deadline, and the funds are sent to another project. Here are the facts:

FACT: I have authored legislation in multiple bienniums for full funding for SWLRT. (SF 312 introduced on 1/26/15, SF 2491 introduced on 3/10/14, SF 338 introduced on 2/7/13, SF 1391 introduced on 5/15/11, & SF 2348 introduced on 2/4/10)

FACT: Legislation for full funding has been presented to the Senate Transportation Committee on at least three separate occasions during this current four-year term alone: (SF 312 was heard on 4/10/15, SF 2491 was heard on 3/24/14, and SF 338 was heard on 2/27/13).

FACT: Individual transportation, transit, and bonding projects are voted on as an omnibus package, not individually in committee. This practice occurs routinely with GOP proposals, many of which this year were not even ready for implementation.  SWLRT language was contained in the 2016 Dibble/Kelly omnibus transportation bill that fell apart when House leadership refused to move it forward.

FACT: Speaker Daudt agreed to include metro transit funding language in the bonding bill.  The bill he sent from the House did NOT have the agreed language in it. He reneged on his word.

FACT:  The Senate restored the language to the bonding bill, which passed off the Senate floor, supported by 19 Senate Republicans, thus containing the provision to allow metro units of governments to fund their own transportation projects. This is an ability the rest of the state already has.  That bonding bill was then delivered to the Minnesota House of Representatives where Speaker Daudt received it but decided to adjourn rather than let metro counties pay for its own transit, thereby killing road and bridge funding across the state.  See House Chief Clerk log, May 22, 2016, bill received 11:54 pm, House adjourned 11:56 pm. See also, attached screen shots of House final moments.

FACT: As recently as early summer, Speaker Daudt was supportive of allowing local counties to fill the gap of funding for the transit project. Source: “Special session sought for bonding bill” By Carolyn Lange of the West Central Tribune on May 26, 2016.

The SWLRT project is too important for major business, numerous communities, and our growing economy to continue playing these tired political games. I am glad that the Governor has convened a meeting with stakeholders to explore options on getting this important regional project back on schedule. I remain optimistic that, despite Republican obstructionism, this project can succeed and Minnesota will be one step closer to a truly 21st-century transportation system.

Senator Ron Latz
Ron Latz represents District 46, which includes portions of Hennepin County in the western Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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