Transportation omnibus passes Senate

The Senate passed the Transportation Omnibus Budget Bill this week, but ignored the need for a comprehensive funding package, resources for expanding transit connectivity, law enforcement reform, or sustainability initiatives. Instead, the Senate Republican budget depends on budget shifts and gimmicks, is full of partisan earmarks, and punishes Metro Transit by practically zeroing out their base budget.

Our transportation infrastructure will require significant additional investments in the coming decades. Minnesota will have at least 700,000 new residents in the next 30 years, while over 50% of our roads are over 50 years old. Minnesota’s state highways and bridges face a $6 billion funding gap over the next 10 years, and estimates suggest a $18 billion gap just to maintain current performance of our entire transportation system over the next 20 years.

Siphoning general fund resources away from other state needs that don’t have dedicated revenue streams is irresponsible budgeting. Unlike other budget areas, transportation has constitutionally dedicated funding streams (that aren’t keeping up) and that should be reformed instead of depending on unsustainable shifts.

Significant improvements to project selection policies and procedures through various programs at MnDOT have been made to make transportation project selection more straightforward, transparent, and effective. That’s why the slew of earmarks in this bill are so confounding.29 earmarked projects–some not even shovel ready–will tie up funding that could go to other projects that have been determined by MnDOT to be ready.

The Senate Republican proposal ignores the need for statewide transit and essentially zeros out funding for Metro Transit, which will increase traffic congestion, decrease air quality, and harm efforts to make the transportation sector more sustainable. Our roads cannot sustain the increase of at least 700,000 residents in the next 30 years through single-use vehicles alone. This bill will require the Met Council to spend down its reserves and fails to provide a sustainable, ongoing source of operating revenue for Metro Transit.

Attempts to pass transportation-related law enforcement reform and reduce deadly police encounters by prohibiting law enforcement from pulling over drivers simply for expired tabs or objects hanging from their rear-view mirror, were rejected. Likewise, efforts to pass meaningful environmental justice initiatives to reduce emissions in areas with poor air quality, were not supported by Republicans.

The Senate DFL remains committed to advocating for sensible transportation funding, law enforcement reform, and sustainable transportation solutions for all Minnesotans and hope the Conference Committee process will yield better legislation that can be widely supported. (HF 1684)