by Ken Martin, Chairman, Minnesota DFL
A recent headline in the Rochester Post Bulletin caught my eye: “Daudt urges House to ‘let Minnesotans decide’ road funding.” Once again Republican Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt is trying to kick Minnesota’s transportation fix down a pot-holed road.
Early in the 2015 Legislative Session noting that more than half of Minnesota’s roads are more than 50 years old and 40 percent of the state’s bridges are 40 years old, Gov. Mark Dayton laid out a detailed plan to fix this aging transportation system. Not only did the $6 billion, 10-year plan build the infrastructure necessary to meet the demands of our growing economy, it would have created more than 100,000 much-needed, good-paying jobs.
Even though Republicans promised voters in the 2014 they would “champion” roads and bridges, Republican legislators proposed spending about $187 million a year over the next four years to fix them. This small amount of funding would allow for very few projects and pit areas of the state in dire need of road and bridge fixes against each other.
When this was met with outcry from all corners of the state, Republicans scrapped the $748 million, 4-year plan for a $7 billion, 10-year plan. The major problem with the Republicans’ plan was that it took money from the state’s general fund – in other words pitting students and seniors against safe roads and secure bridges.
Everyone knows that transportation needs a stead, long-term source of reliable funding, so the Republicans Plan B was a no go. I believe it’s time for Plan C – compromise at the Capitol.
With Minnesota motorists paying $1.2 billion a year in vehicle repairs because of bad roads, 2.5 million commuters driving across deficient bridges each day and the cost of fixing our roads increasing each year the work is delayed, the time for Republicans to fulfill their promise to voters is now.
Only leadership and a major investment will move Minnesota forward. If Republican legislators fail to pass the reliable funding needed for significant improvements to roads, bridges and transit systems in the 2016 Legislative Session, voters should send them packing and return the House majority back to the DFL and maintain the DFL majority in the Senate. With the DFL in the driver’s seat, Minnesotans can count on the needed upgrades to our roads, bridges and transit systems to keep our economy moving forward.