I think a lot of people have believed that with a GOP-controlled legislature and a DFL governor, not a lot is going to get done this legislative session in Minnesota. Posturing over the budget, however, is happening. How much of it gets signed into law is another thing, of course.
In the latest round, the Minnesota House Transportation Finance committee voted to divert the 0.25% sales tax that Twin Cities residents in Hennepin, Ramsey, Dakota, Washington and Anoka Counties pay to fund light rail into the state’s general fund. This is major funding for light rail — more than $60 million dollars — but virtually chicken-feed when it comes to plugging the holes in the state budget. The funding would make up for $51 million proposed cuts in bus funding, but harm the construction of the new Central Corridor light rail line between the Saint Paul and Minneapolis downtown districts, and delay planning for the Southwest Corridor line.
It would also be awkward in that local sales taxes are intended for local use, and the legislature should not be appropriating them to the general fund. This is a kind of boundary-stomping that is typically thought inappropriate by both parties.
Transit is critical infrastructure to promote social mobility, and provides solid support for active transportation such as bicycling and walking. This is among the reasons Bike Walk Twin Cities is funding improvements in places like Fridley — to help local residents connect more effectively via active means to transit.
The UpTake has provided video from the hearing:
I have my doubts that this will be allowed through in a budget bill, but it’s something to keep an eye on.