Minnesota Budget Bites: Agreement between Governor and Legislature cuts transit by $54 million

Details of the agreement between the Governor and Legislature on funding transportation emerged Monday afternoon. The bill includes more than $54 million in reductions to mass transit in the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota. While this level of cuts is far below the $118 million proposed by the Legislature, the Governor’s budget had proposed no reductions in funding for transit.

The working agreement cuts general fund support for transit in the Twin Cities metro area by $52 million, a 40 percent reduction in FY 2012-13. Suburban transit providers that have “opted-out” of the Metro Transit system will also see a cut of approximately $7 million for the biennium. The agreement appears to backfill some of these cuts to transit operations by redirecting revenues from a quarter-cent regional sales tax away from the construction and operation of rail and bus rapid transit projects. Although this overall level of cuts is significantly less than the 84 percent cut approved by the Legislature in May (and vetoed by the Governor), metro area riders are still likely to see higher fares and reduced service levels.

The working agreement also cuts funding for transit operations in Greater Minnesota by about $3 million, an eight percent reduction. Once again, the reduction is less than the 23 percent cut approved by the Legislature, but will still have an impact in area where there are already few transportation alternatives.

The working agreement makes no cuts to funding for commuter and passenger rail through the Department of Transportation. The Legislature eliminated this funding in its budget, which would have represented a loss of $1 million in FY 2012-13.

One new proposal showed up in the working agreement – $127 million in additional funding from the trunk highway fund for the Better Roads for a Better Minnesota program, which is aimed at repairing roads in poor condition.

Additional details about the transportation working agreement may emerge as policymakers begin to discuss the bill.

Transit is a basic public service, getting people to and from work and school and other destinations, and reducing congestion and pollution. While the working agreement has softened the blow to transit, tens of thousands of Minnesotans – seniors, individuals with disabilities, working adults and students – are likely to find it a little harder to get where they need to go after these cuts are implemented.

This is the first of two bills released on Monday – stay tuned for our upcoming analysis of public safety and judiciary. Additional bills will be posted to the House of Representatives’ 2011 Special Session Budget Bills page as they are released, and the Minnesota Budget Project will follow up with analysis.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Tim Brausen on 07/19/2011 - 11:43 am.

    A $54 million cut in general revenue funding, and diversion of monies specifically designated for future transit projects (like SW LRT), represents a very bad compromise for the citizens of the metro area. Senator Beard of Shakopee and those of his ilk are succeeding in cutting these essential services for metro residents while continuing highway funding and spending. A very short sighted policy in this time of rising gasoline prices and increased transit demand.

    When will our public leaders work to increase this essential service?

  2. Submitted by Bert Perry on 07/21/2011 - 02:59 pm.

    Keep in mind here that the average efficiency of transit is about 25 passenger-miles per gallon of diesel, about what you’d get if you gave each rider a Powerstroke F250. So cutting funds for transit is not necessarily a net environmental loss, as almost all cars are more efficient. Outstate, where distances are further and riders are fewer (only a couple of Mankato routes achieve an average of 13 riders), it’s far worse.

    In certain cases, it may be necessary to get people who cannot afford a car to their jobs, but let’s keep in mind that it’s a net environmental loss.

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