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03/24/2017

After years of failure by state government to adequately fund Minnesota’s transportation infrastructure, Senate Republicans proposed a dramatic boost in funding to repair or replace the state’s roads and bridges. The Republican budget will immediately infuse $1.3 billion in roads and bridges over the next two years and $3.6 billion over a ten-year period. More than 8,800 lane miles and 200 bridges could be repaired or replaced under the Republican plan.

“An investment in roads and bridges is what Minnesotans want and deserve,” said Senator Julie Rosen (R-Vernon Center). “The ag community depends on a system that is reliable and updated. Our transportation plan provides critical funding to ready our infrastructure for the demands of the future. I’m proud we are able to give our roads and bridges these new investments without raising taxes.”

New, ongoing funding makes up $2.8 billion of the ten-year commitment, and the other $766 million includes a mix of trunk highway bonding and federal grants. Cities, counties, and townships will receive special consideration with $148 million in combined funding over the biennium to spend as they deem fit.

The Senate Republicans’ transportation bill will also include common sense changes to MNDOT’s project selection process, which has been criticized by the Office of the Legislative Auditor for its lack of fairness and transparency. With the inclusion of Senate File 1524 and Senate File 1525, the Commissioner of Transportation will be required to score transportation projects impartially, with input from local stakeholders, and publish the results publicly so residents can see where their local project falls on the list to begin construction.

The bill will also eliminate the state’s responsibility to pay fifty percent of operating costs for future light rail lines. In the last biennium, taxpayers from all corners of the state subsidized two light rail lines in the Twin Cities metro to the tune of $49 million, regardless of their proximity to it or ability to use it.

“Rural Minnesota has been disproportionately hurt by the legislature’s procrastination on transportation issues,” added Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka. “In addition to new funding for roads and bridges, the policy provisions in this bill will make the selection of road construction projects equitable statewide, and end unfair rural taxation for metro light rail.”


ROD HALVORSEN
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