There is a very strong annoying truth about Minnesota transportation. Fixing roads and bridges cost money. Republicans and Democrats tend to agree on that, but where the money comes from has a divergence from reality. At least with one of the parties.
Governor Dayton proposed a very reasonable and overdue transportation package yesterday. It had a huge spending component — which we need — and it had a method to pay for it — increased user taxes (I could use the word fees, but we all know it is the same thing, even when Gov. Pawlenty tries to draw a distinction).
The taxes, of course, drew the ire of the Republican controlled House. They wailed and moaned about the “burden” on Minnesota taxpayers. How it was all so unnecessary. Now, they were not denying the need for the transportation spending — and they didn’t even argue much about the spending figures being totally off base. Of course, they themselves couldn’t possibly go along with such exorbitant spending and taxes. No, no, uh, uh.
Dayton proposed raising taxes on wholesale gas to pay for the roads and bridges that the cars buying that gas would have to use. He also proposed hiking car license fees. Again, fees on cars that use the roads. And he also proposed a hike in the metro sales tax for transit. Metro taxes for metro use. Not greater Minnesota. Fair, fair, and fair.
What the House Republicans have offered is vastly different. They have a multi-year proposal that is basically one time money taken from other sources, and the surplus (which really isn’t even enough to cover one year’s worth of need) and patch it. Like a patch on a flat tire. It doesn’t fix anything, it just gets you back to where you started.
Its funny, but transportation needs don’t go backwards. The older roads and bridges get, the more fixing they need and the more expensive it gets to do it. You can “patch” it all, but the need is still there. It may cost more to do it right, but it will also last longer and be less of a burden to future budgets. And because the needs are ongoing, you also need stable revenue streams. A flow of user taxes that continue without year after year revisits. A budgetary source that allows MNDOT to plan and make the necessary expenditures.
And as for transit — Dayton is willing to concede that transit is more of a metro issue than for outstate Minnesota. And he has always expected the seven county metro to pay its own way when it comes to the revenues for transit. But House Republicans want to play the versus game. It is greater Minnesota vs. the Metro. Don’t let the Metro get transit revenue — give all of it to roads and bridges in outstate Minnesota, where “our” constituents live.
The issue isn’t a versus problem. It is a community problem. We need to do both — to walk and chew gum — to fix and build. That is why Dayton’s proposal is correct. He looks at the needs of the state as a whole — he doesn’t look for trade-offs.
House Republicans continue this farcical meme that “greater Minnesota” is being shortchanged by the Democrats. Even though it is Republicans that block and cut LGA, block health care for rural hospitals, block broadband upgrades, and allow property taxes to increases for farmers and small businesses — and yes, they have blocked past attempts to fix roads and bridges all over the state.
We need to make a dramatic move in transportation. For greater Minnesota, for suburban Minnesota, for the Metro — for everyone in this state. Dayton has proposed a comprehensive plan. And if we want to keep this great state economy going, then we need to make sure the means to transport those goods and services is capable of handling the job.
I’m not sure what kind of future the House Republicans are looking at. Sometimes I think they never look more than one political cycle ahead. It is all about winning the next election — and not really about greater Minnesota or anyone else in this state.
Transportation costs money. The Dayton proposal pays for it. Make it happen.
If you blog and would like your work considered for Minnesota Blog Cabin, please submit our registration form.