In his latest messaging fail, state representative Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing), the untested chair of the powerful Minnesota House Transportation Policy & Finance Committee claims that prior to the release of Governor Dayton 's transportation plan--drawn from recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT)--Minnesota governors sat on their hands waiting for earmarks from the state legislature.
A review of the Pawlenty administration reveals that it too released an ambitious transportation plan. And just like the present, funding transportation was contentious during the Republican administration.
In Dayton's transportation plan plays favorites, Kelly writes:
We’ve all heard the phrase “It’s my way or the highway,” but have you ever received the “it’s my way or no highway” message?
Strangely this was the basic theme conveyed by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and his transportation team recently.
It was no coincidence that on a day when Minnesota’s legislative auditor blasted his MNsure program by saying “its failures outweighed its achievements,” Dayton and his transportation commissioner assembled the media and told them exactly what roads would receive upgrades if lawmakers approved his $9 billion transportation tax and fee increase proposal.
Usually the Legislature first allocates funding and then allows the transportation department to decide where it should be spent. But Dayton is attempting to alter this approach by politically earmarking where his new revenue would go, and in the case of Hwy. 14, flat-out saying this project would not get done unless House Republicans approved his proposal.
This type of fear-mongering is just wrong, and the fact that it’s coming from our chief executive just adds to the stench of political gamesmanship. . .
We realize that Kelly is new at being on a transportation committee, much less chairing one, and so the learning curve is high and hard, but that's enormously silly rhetoric, given that the ghosts of Governor Tim Pawlenty's expansive 2003 10-year, $7 billion transportation plan lurk in the corners of the Innertubes.
In 2007, the Pawlenty Administration sent out a document ,Legacy of Reform, 2003-2007, bragging about its accomplishments. The text under Transportation, the text read in part:
Transportation: The Pawlenty-Molnau administration has supported the largest transportation expansion in state’s history and will continue to support innovative efforts to expand and improve our roads and infrastructure.
Proposed a 10-year, $7 billion transportation investment program to accelerate dozens of major highway and transit projects without raising state taxes – the largest state transportation investment plan ever proposed by a governor. The cornerstone of the program, a constitutional amendment which would transfer all motor vehicle sales taxes to transportation, was passed by voters in 2006.
Proposed and implemented $900 million in critical state highway and bridge projects authorized in the 2003 transportation bill – the largest infusion of transportation funding in Minnesota’s history.
Package financed 20 major projects more than a cumulative 70 years ahead of schedule.
- Included in that package were improvements to Highways 14, 212, 494, 169, 10, 34, 371, and 53. Improvements to “Unweave the Weave” (694/35E) and Crosstown/35W are underway.
- $40 million in eligible transit advantage projects.
- $100 million in state highway safety and preservation projects
Proposed and supported constitutional dedication of the motor vehicle sales tax. The MVST dedication is the equivalent of a 9-cent gas tax increase.. . .
But as Pawlenty learned in 2008, and Minnesota Public Radio's Tom Scheck reported in House and Senate override governor's veto, that revenue wasn't enough for the state's transportation needs:
"It's a grievous problem. A bridge fell down and we're all moved to do the right thing, not out of emotion, but out of commitment to good work and principle," said Abeler. "It's a constitutional duty. Education and transportation and public safety are public duties."
By fall, the gas tax will climb a nickel, to 25 cents per gallon. It will go up an additional 3-1/2 cents to pay off road bonds, though those increases would be spread out over the next five years and eventually roll back as debt is satisfied.
There will also be a metrowide sales tax increase of a quarter percent, and people who buy new cars will pay higher license tab fees.
Here's a presentation of the 2003 plan we found archived on the state's website:
Photo: A barge on the Mississippi River passing by Representative Kelly's district; as we noted last fall in Trains, planes & automobiles go through his district: Kelly lays out transportation chair cred, Kelly claimed that the fact that barge and other travel occurred in his district qualified him to chair the transportation committee. We're learning more what cargo that barge might be transporting.
If you appreciate Bluestem Prairie, you can mail contributions (payable to Sally Jo Sorensen P.O. Box 108, Maynard MN 56260) or use the paypal button below:
Email subscribers can contribute via this link to paypal; use email sally.jo.sorensen at gmail.com as recipient.