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Friday, March 31, 2017

GOP Senate Passes $5.8 Billion Transportation Bill with $180 Million to Met Council & Mass Transit a Huge Raise



The $90 million a year ($180M total) from the general fund to the Met C is a raise of nearly $20 million according to the Met C's 2015 budget report that stated they received $82 million a year for transit from the General Fund. No one has contacted me to refute this data I believe is accurate.






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Last night on March 30th the 
4rth version of the $5.8 billion Senate Transportation Omnibus bill 
SF1060 passed 38-28. Today the House version is up for a vote. It's great legislators were able to pass a bill to support our "roads and bridges"; however, within it was hundreds of millions in NON-road and bridge related pork for the Met Council ($180 MILLION!), airports, bike paths, walking trails, radio communication, government buildings, and more. For weeks we have been asking GOP Senators (who hold the senate majority) to comment on this pork with no response. We also have received little feedback about the $1.6 billion dollar Senate bonding bill that is also full of pork. The only response is they will not be taking one cent out of the bill:


 $1.6 BILLION 2017 Bonding Bill. Legislators Say They Refuse to Cut Any Pork.

photo credit www.senate.mn

Thankfully where fiscal common  sense and respect for party principle lacks in the Senate GOP in every area of their bill, there is hope in the GOP controlled house version of this Transportation Omnibus Bill. However, it resides only in the significantly less funding for the Met C ($61.5 million vs the Senate's $180 million). This house companion bill to the senate's version is HF861. It is the 4rth and final version and up for a vote today. Some details could change before the approval with last minute amendments adding on even more pork. However, before either bill can move forward to the Governor's office they have to match. Here's some of the differences that stood out that I could find:

The Senate Transportation Omnibus bill SF1060 and it's 4rth version passed 38-28 yesterday:
$5.8 billion total.  All the sums are for spending over just two years (2018 &2019)
$180.6 million to the un-elected Metropolitan Council where historically HALF their budget or more is funneled WITHOUT legislative approval to build our failed Mass transit corridors that cost MN tax payers billions!
$54.4 million for Airports... (didn't realize subsidizing for profit airports was in the constitution as a core function of Government)
$41 million for agency management buildings (are they building roads or buildings for themselves?)

The House Transportation Omnibus Bill HF861 and it's 4rth and final version is up for a vote today:
$5.8 billion total. All the sums are for spending over just two years (2018 &2019)
$61.5 million for the un-elected Metropolitan Council... this lower number than $180 million from the senate is responsible because it will neutralize the over reaching power of Met Council for planning road corridors. More details here: Why One Body (MNDOT) to Run State Transportation Planning Would be Best for MN Taxpayers
$65.2 million for Airports... (Again, didn't realize subsidizing for profit airports was in the constitution as a core function of Government)
$57.9 million for agency management buildings (Again, are they building roads or buildings for themselves?)

The Senate's $180 million in funding to the Met Council is a $20 million dollar raise from the last funding for them. This is a slap in the face for fiscal conservatives who elected these GOP senators and have trusted them to do as they promised and take money and power from the Met Council. Representative Zerwas agrees, stating on AM1130 that the original reason and sole purpose the Met Council was originally founded was because the State didn't want Twin City's local governments building redundant sewer systems between each other!
My one small, blue collar, citizen run, not for profit, free, blog can not influence the Fiscal Conservative legislators to wake up and return to their principles they ran on to get elected. Only you can motivate them by contacting them. Please do so now and in the future.

I told the legislators:
"If you can't align against failed mass transit it's easy to predict a repeat of 2011 when the GOP did nothing to reform wasteful transit spending, the un-elected met council, and actually did the opposite and funded horrible transit lines like the Red Rock Corridor and Gateway Corridor with direct funding.... As you know the GOP lost the house and Senate the following year. When this session is again a failure to cut something simple as failed mass transit spending and Met Council reform I predict a similar defeat for the Republican legislature AND the Governor's seat." 

But don't lose hope in the republicans yet fiscal conservatives. 84 Republican legislators signed a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to stop the two billion dollar SWLRT corridor that even rural democrats agree is waste of tax dollars.

Republican Representative Jerry Hertaus' comment he provided me several months ago summarizes the extreme waste our failed Transit system is:
"I don't think it was necessarily the legislature's intent to provide an unlimited open checkbook to subsidize at an "unkown" number of rail lines at an unkown cost. Extending the current losses funded by the legislature to the six additional proposed MetC lines would suggest (by my own calculations) the current $55 million of losses would triple to $165 million. This promises to be an endless obligation and when shouldered up against the talked about 10 year transportation funding plan, this would be a $1.65 billion dollar funding shortfall, not to mention a likely $12 BILLION dollars to construct the lines. This totals by my estimation, $13.65 billion for LRT over the next 10 years compared to $6 billion over the same period for all of our roads and bridges statewide. This is more than DOUBLE the expenditure for less than 3% of total ridership assuming the LRT ridership doubles over the same period. Further, these losses will starve the general fund for other constitutionally mandated responsibilities such as education, transportation, judiciary and public safety and will ultimately lead to yet higher taxes.

-Matt Behning