By Ken Martin, chairman, Minnesota DFL
I grew up in a Republican household where government was expected to build and safely maintain roads, bridges and other public infrastructure. The Minnesota House of Representatives Republican Caucus has made a complete U turn, putting forward a transportation funding bill that could only construct one bridge. Yes, that’s right, just one bridge.
The Republican plan calls for $750 million over a four-year period to fund transportation projects as well as $200 million from the state’s general fund and savings through “efficiencies” at the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). There’s a commercial from the 1980s that famously clipped, “Where’s the beef?” In this case I would ask Republicans, “Where’s the bill?” This comical approach to this very pressing need does nothing to truly address this issue in the short or long term.
What Republicans aren’t willing to tell Minnesotans is that most transportation funding comes from dedicated funding and taking money out of the general fund means cuts to classrooms, nursing homes and other critical priorities in our state.
Think about it – Republican candidates promised voters, especially rural voters, that they would put their interests first, but they have no real plan to address the state’s deteriorating roads and bridges or build new infrastructure. In fact, first-term member Rep. Dale Lueck told the Brainerd Dispatch that there are roads in his district that will “jar the fillings right out of your teeth.” If Lueck supports his Party instead of his constituents, dentists in the Aitkin area will be doing brisk business.
In sharp contrast, Gov. Dayton and the Senate DFL Caucus have put forward proposals to repair and replace crumbling roads, aging bridges and prepare for an increased demand on our transportation system. DFL plans for long-term solutions will ensure Minnesota has the transportation system necessary to continue Minnesota’s economic growth.
The writing is on the wall: The Republicans’ transportation proposal that could possibly fund one new bridge, isn’t going to cut it. Only weeks into the session we see support for transportation funding growing across the state. Minnesotans are tired of making car repairs caused by poor roadways and worrying about the safety of bridges in their communities. Businesses know they won’t be able to grow if they cannot get their goods to market in a safe and timely manner.
If the Republicans don’t join DFL leaders on the road to progress, not only will they be a Party no longer recognizable to their long-time supporters, but the Minnesota so many came together to build to be a great state will become a faded memory. Without an updated transportation system, business will detour to other states and Minnesota’s economy will deteriorate along with our roads and bridges. Minnesota deserves better.