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Cities make case for more local street funding

By Jonathan Avise

Local officials have repeatedly made their case before House lawmakers this session for more state assistance in funding local road repairs.

Most of the discussion has focused on the state’s smallest cities, with municipalities under population of 5,000 constitutionally cut out of receiving state aid highway funding for local roads. But a bill heard Thursday in the House Transportation Finance Committee would aim to boost both cities, large and small, with more dependable dollars for local streets.

HF934, sponsored by Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls), was held over for possible inclusion in an omnibus transportation bill. It would generate more state assistance for city street repairs in three ways:

  • a $10 surcharge on annual motor vehicle registrations;
  • reallocate part of a $10 filing fee levied against motor vehicle transactions (other than registration renewals);
  • and, shift revenue from a $3 title transfer fee that is currently deposited in the state’s General Fund.

The revenue would be evenly split between the existing Small Cities Assistance program, founded with one-time dollars in 2015, and create an assistance fund for larger cities that currently receive municipal state-aid street funds.

The bill’s purpose, Hornstein said, is to acknowledge the needs of both large and small cities. Property taxes and special assessments fund the bulk of local street needs, Hornstein and city officials who testified Thursday said, and that leaves municipalities both large and small behind on road maintenance.

 “We really need a dependable, steady funding source,” said Deb Heiser, engineering director for the city of St. Louis Park.

Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Mpls) sponsors a companion, SF933, which awaits action in the Senate Transportation Finance and Policy Committee.  

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