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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Doubts About Daudt On Transportation

Category: Transportation
Posted: 04/12/17 23:35

by Dave Mindeman

On March 17th, Kurt Daudt and other GOP legislators sent a letter to Elaine Chao at the Department of Transportation which said this about the Southwest Light Rail project:

In that March 17 letter, House Speaker Kurt Daudt and 83 other GOP legislators asked Chao to deny a full-funding agreement with the Federal Transit Administration that would provide nearly $900 million to build the line. They described Southwest light rail as a "grossly wasteful project" that would be "counter-productive" to state interests.

Daudt is an idiot.

To outright reject $900 million for a needed transportation project simply because it is for light rail is stupid and irresponsible. Kurt Daudt is, in essence, telling us that the metro light rail project...and quite frankly, any light rail project....gets no support from him or his colleagues.

900 million dollars is a lot of money. It would pay for over 80% of the project. A project that is ready to go...a project that has already gone through the bruising planning phase, has preliminary plans in place, and jobs ready to start. Yet, GOP legislators have the gaul to snuff it out.

Daudt is a backwards thinker.

There is little doubt (I have trouble with that word these days) that SWLRT is a necessary component to a full service light rail system for the Twin Cities. But, as Governor Dayton says it a rebuttal letter....

He noted its "strong support" from several key business organizations, as well as the cities and counties along the route. He also said he will protect the longstanding financial commitments that have already been made to the project.

Former Senate Minority leader David Hann opposed SWLRT representing a district in which it would run through...and he was electorally defeated because of that opposition.

But Daudt doesn't care. This guy (who wants to be governor) continues to divide the state along geographic lines. He protects his majority by convincing rural Minnesota that he alone looks out for them. That transit is taking money from greater Minnesota transportation needs.

What Daudt never concedes is that transit funding mostly comes from Federal transportation dollars. Dollars that are appropriated for projects such as this. Those dollars won't come to Minnesota for rural roads and bridges....it will go to a different state for a similar project.

Daudt is foolishly wasting a return of Federal tax money to Minnesota.

We send more in taxes to Washington, DC than we get back in Fed supported projects in Minnesota. Light rail transit is a huge opportunity to get some of those dollars working for this state.

And light rail is NOT some bloated, wasted endeavor. Minnesota businesses are clamoring for transit projects. It is good for business, good for workers, and good for developers. That is serious economic activity that we can gain by simply letting this project go forward without needless GOP stonewalling.

I "doubt" that "Daudt" could ever be governor - because he will never meet the needs of ALL the citizens of this state. He depends too much on dividing us on a geographic basis. That is a losing strategy for him and for the state of Minnesota.
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Transportation: We Can Walk And Chew Gum At The Same Time

Category: Transportation
Posted: 04/01/17 12:48

by Dave Mindeman

One of the basic needs of any state is transportation. Minnesota has a bigger dependence than most because we have the 3rd biggest network of roads for any state in the nation.

So it is not surprising that we have to have a large transportation budget. But our Republican friends in the House seem to be locked into this idea that transportation is somehow a duality. That the metro and greater Minnesota are not one transportation system, but two entities that compete for transportation dollars.

In other words, we cannot walk and chew gum at the same time.

The metro requires a lot of transportation investment. Especially while we are trying to modernize to a light rail system that every other Metro centric metropolitan area builds. And we long ago recognized that these dollars had to be supplemented with Metro tax dollars so as not to be too big a drain on the general fund. That is why there is a metro sales tax. That is why millions of dollars are raised directly from the seven county metro to meet those additional needs. The metro is not a burden to a statewide transportation system.

But the House Republicans insist that the metro still gets too much and are continuously tinkering with the budget to, a) pretend that they are "equalizing" the needs of greater Minnesota, and b) saving money from being wasted on "unnecessary light rail transit. Which is horse puckey.

Let's look at some actual statistics:

Transit support - Greater MN contributes $81 million. Metro contributes $359 million.

Average transportation spending per year - Outstate spends $925 million (68%). Metro spends $443 million (32%).

Where does revenue come from? Vehicle sales tax, vehicle registration fees, and fuel tax. 48% of revenue comes from outstate. 52% comes from metro.

Transportation spending per person - Outstate is $384. Metro is $149.

Clearly, when it comes to transportation spending, greater Minnesota sucks up a greater amount of dollars and contributes way less.

But nobody actually begrudges that. Anyone who examines the situation knows that state highways in greater Minnesota have a lot of miles to maintain for a lower number of people. But most people understand the need for the disparity...except, apparently, for the House Republicans, who refuse to look at the facts of the concept.

Still the perception that the MN House Republicans want to convey is that rural Minnesota is the one being shortchanged. That transit is a waste. And that we can't possibly take care of both.

Wrong. Wrong. And wrong.

The metropolitan Twin Cities area is the revenue engine for the state. There is little question about that. But light rail and transit is a particular need for the metro as opposed to rural MN - but the metro has recognized that fact and the majority of its funding comes from metro sales tax dollars, as well as Federal targeted funds.

I guess the main point I am trying to get to is that if there is a disparity in how transportation dollars are allocated, it is the Twin Cities that is getting the short end of the stick. And, when it comes to rail, even though we are footing the bill ourselves for the most part, the House Republicans want to either take that money away or transfer it out to their rural base.

In addition, the House Republicans continue to block new revenues that could alleviate some of the pressure. Transportation needs have continued to increase, yet, revenues have been stagnant - especially when it comes to the dedicated revenue from a gas tax.

Greater MN has a huge network of roads to maintain - and the fairest way to fund that is an increase in the gas tax (and the bulk of any increased revenue from that would largely come from the metro driver). Yet, the House Republicans refuse to even consider it and instead borrow their way (one GOP budget has a billion dollars in borrowing) to transportation fantasy land.

Looking ahead, our ability to get new revenue from a gas tax increase is a window that is closing. As hybrid or electric cars begin to flourish, the gas tax revenue will dwindle. That is why if we are behind in our transportation needs, a gas tax increase is so much more important now - while gas prices are low and the revenue is still there to be raised.

This whole debate on transportation is devoid of substance. It has become a political football and a bunch of divisive intra state foolishness.

We cannot continue to punt the issue forward. And we do not need to foolishly borrow money that can still be raised in the traditional user fee ways.

We really can walk and chew gum at the same time. So why don't we do that? OK?
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When In Doubt (or Daudt) Attack Rail

Category: Transportation
Posted: 03/28/17 05:01

by Dave Mindeman

Annette Meeks is the CEO of the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota (a puzzling title) and she shares Kurt Daudt's fear of trains.

In an op-ed in the Star Tribune, she "rails" (excuse the pun) against the North Star line. Offering a dramatic shutdown as a "solution"....

It's time to stop making excuses for this costly failure. Instead of pouring good money after bad by expanding Northstar, Metro Transit should immediately discontinue weekend service on that line. Then transit officials, in conjunction and with guidance from the Legislature and the administration, need to begin the process of negotiating with federal transportation officials in Washington to determine how we can curtail service on this rail line completely. This line, in particular, continues to hemorrhage red ink that limits transit growth. It's time to shut it down.

While it is true that the Northstar has suffered from weak usage numbers, Meeks actually gives us part of the reason in her piece...

Northstar, operating since November of 2009 on an abbreviated line from Minneapolis to Big Lake, has forced taxpayers to subsidize a rail line that clearly has little demand. It's one of the primary reasons our transit system is off the rails.

The major commuter market that Northstar had hoped to connect with was St. Cloud. But the legislature in its wisdom at the time, decided there wasn't enough money to go all the way...so they stopped the line abruptly at Big Lake. This would force St. Cloud commuters to drive to Big Lake to catch the line into the Twin Cities. I don't know about you, but if I have to drive a significant portion of the way to something, I might as well drive all of it.

Meeks faults transit for the problems that the legislature intentionally inflicted on the project. Now that Gov. Dayton is asking for preliminary funding to look into completing this 8 year old project, Meeks wants to shut it all down. (By the way, the St. Cloud reps very much support finishing the line to St. Cloud)

In addition, Meeks (who hates taxes) wants to make the commuters pay more. Increased fares, mileage based tickets, and charges for park and ride.


This continual war on transit that the Republicans insist on waging has got to stop. We continue to short change the lines themselves with constant controversies, we put Federal money in jeopardy, we delay and delay which only increases the costs, and the GOP keeps vocalizing the "waste" of transit while pouring more and more dollars into the asphalt jungle.

Transit systems are how modern metro areas operate. Business supports it because it expands their labor base. Developers need it to have a stable demand for housing and business location. Commuters need it for quick and easy access to their needs without investments into vehicles.

Meeks, like most other conservative Republicans, has never looked at the broader picture. She, like her cohorts, refuses to look ahead and not at the budget here and now.

This stunted thinking has plagued Minnesota whenever Republicans have a place at the budget table.

How long do we do this?
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