Budget funds critical road construction projects, adds accountability
On Wednesday, the Minnesota Senate passed a comprehensive transportation funding package that invests billions over the next two years in the state’s transportation infrastructure – without a gas tax, sales tax, or license tab fee increase – and protects existing transportation funds from being spent on non-transportation government programs. The budget passed the Senate with broad, bipartisan support. Notably, an amendment to incorporate the Governor’s fee increases on tabs and massive gas tax failed without a single vote of support. Every member of the Senate, including 32 Democrats, voted against the Governor’s transportation plan.
“Millions of Minnesotans rely on a healthy and robust transportation network to travel, transport goods, and go to work and school. Our budget makes a substantial investment in maintaining the safe and reliable infrastructure on which we all depend – without raising those three transportation-related taxes,” said Senator Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson), chair of the Senate Transportation Finance and Policy Committee. “We can fund the needs of communities across the state by spending responsibly and allocating our resources where there are the greatest needs.”
The $6.63 billion two-year budget allocates more than $2.5 billion for critical statewide road construction and planning, including $38 million in trunk highway funds to complete the four-lane expansion of U.S. Highway 212 between Chaska and Norwood Young America. The budget also includes a boost in transportation assistance for small cities, as well as funds for the legislative auditor to act as a watchdog on the Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the Department of Public Safety, making sure taxpayer-funded programs are being appropriately managed. The bill also reprioritizes where funds from MnPASS carpool lanes are spent, focusing them on capital costs. Language prohibiting MnDOT from using trunk highway funds for bicycle lanes is in the bill, ensuring funds dedicated for roads and bridges are appropriately used.
In addition, a provision in the bill requires most drivers to move out of the left-most lane of traffic if another vehicle is immediately behind them, ensuring the safe and efficient flow of traffic, and prohibits the state from picking up the tab for the operating costs of new light rail trains. Finally, the budget includes a provision prohibiting the use of trunk highway funds for additional Department of Public Safety call center employees.
“No matter where you live, this budget makes a responsible, sustainable investment in our transportation infrastructure, and adds accountability to make sure state agencies are good stewards of taxpayer funds,” Senator Newman continued. “Our budget looks toward the future, making sure taxpayer funds are spent with transparency and accountability.”