Under the quaint notion that misery loves company, a friend from Minnesota House District 12A--just next door to the west of Bluestem's world headquarters--forwards freshman state representative Jeff Backer's legislative updates.
In today's update, Backer shares this complaint:
. . .On Tuesday, the Governor unveiled his budget proposal for the coming biennium. His budget includes a $6.839 billion increase in all-funds spending over the current biennium and a more than $903 million increase in all taxes for the biennium. While there are portions of the proposal that I think we can find some common ground, the budget proposal ultimately offers more questions than answers.
Included in the Governor’s proposal is an increase in the state’s gas tax by 6.5% and to spend $2.8 billion on metropolitan transit projects such as light rail. If Governor Dayton is honest about his intent to improve all of Minnesota’s roads and bridges then we have to re-prioritize money away from light rail boondoggles and bike trails in the Twin Cities to real roads and bridges around the state. . . .
Where do we begin?
First, Backer discusses a budget proposal for the coming biennium, but in the next paragraph, he jumps to the governor's proposed transportation plan, which projects 10 years of spending, not two.
Here's how the Governor's office pitched the ten year spending plan (screenshot from the embedded pdf below):
In the first sentence of his second paragraph, Backer links together the gas tax increase and the money for transit in the first sentence, Backer implies that the 6.5% gas tax would go to fund light rail and bike paths, but that money is constitutionally mandated to go to roads and bridges and cannot be spent on transit.
It's a seven-county sales tax increase that would pay for metro transit, while the bike and pedestrian funding would be financed by the general fund and the sales tax increase. Nor would all that revenue go toward light rail, according to the fact sheet:
The Governor’s proposal would fund 20 new transitways, increase metro area bus service by 27 percent, increase Metro Area transit ridership by an estimated 80 percent, meet 90 percent of all transit needs in Greater Minnesota, and increase transit service in Greater Minnesota by nearly 500,000 hours of service annually.
And those "real roads and bridges" Backer likes? From the Governor's ten-year proposal:
• A Real Investment – The Governor’s transportation proposal would invest $6 billion in our state roads and bridges, $2.356 billion in Minnesota counties, cities, and townships, and $2.92 billion in our transit systems.
• Better Corridors of Commerce – The Governor’s proposal would provide an additional $1.6 billion for the Corridors of Commerce initiative, making targeted investments in key freight routes that are important for business expansions, job creation, and economic development.
• Better Roads and Bridges – The Governor’s proposal would repair or replace 2,200 miles of roads. It would repair or replace 330 bridges statewide. Over 40 percent of the new revenues raised in the Governor’s proposal would be directed to cities, counties, and townships; giving local leaders the resources and flexibility to repair and replace local roads and bridges statewide.
By leaving out important timelines, facts, figures and sources of revenue, while supplying his constituents with only the figure on metro transit, the gas tax increase and mentioning only the "coming biennium," Backer has crafted a classic bait and switch.
That bait and switch put in service of the sort of the classic Backer place-baiting that feeds resentment of other parts of the state. He rode this rhetoric into office in St. Paul, but all of Minnesota's transportation needs--including revenue for "real roads and bridges"--is shortchanged by this malarkey.
Revenue, not resentment, is needed to repair real roads and bridges.
Here's the fact sheet from the Governor's office:
Photo: A real overpass on a real road in western Minnesota.
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