Before we get into news from the Capitol, I want to make a brief note encouraging people to participate in the 20th annual Walk for Glendalough 9 a.m. to noon Saturday (April 23) at Glendalough State Park in Battle Lake.
The event is a fundraiser for the park and around $250,000 has been raised over the years to help pay for improvements. This is a good social/family gathering and there are many activities beyond the walk itself. There is no entry fee on this day, but a small donation and registration is required to qualify for door prizes. This is an event I look forward to attending each year and hope to see you there. Click here for more information.
As for work at the Capitol, session's biggest bills continue making their way through the process and are expected to soon make their way to the House floor.
Higher education and K-12 education are moving forward in a package. One K-12 provision would be helpful for districts in Greater Minnesota, including those in our region, by providing funding reform. Look for more details as this legislation advances.
A top priority for the remainder of the session is to enact a long-term transportation funding plan that focuses on roads and bridges. The people in our state agree we need to catch up on improving our roads and bridges and it's time to make that happen.
The House Republican plan uses taxes Minnesotans are already paying on car parts, auto repairs, vehicle leases, and rental cars and dedicates that revenue through a special Transportation Stability Fund. By adding in a portion of the $900 million budget surplus and bonding, the Republican plan would fix 15,500 lane miles of roads and 330 bridges statewide.
On the other hand, the Senate DFL majority recently unveiled its proposed budget targets, devoting less than 4 percent of the $900 million surplus to transportation. In addition, Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL lawmakers continue advocating for a historic gas tax increase and expansion of light rail in the Twin Cities area.
Dollars used to cover the high cost of expanding light-rail trains in the Twin Cities would be better used on the state's roads and bridges. The state could repave six lanes of every interstate highway in the state, fund four years of Metro Transit bus operations, raise funding for the new small cities road and bridges program and pay for an I-94 project costing up to $6 million near Rothsay – all for the cost of one light-rail line.
The vast majority of Minnesotans rely on our state's roads and bridges as their primary means of travel. That is where our transportation dollars should go in order to have the maximum benefit.
The big thing is we already have the means to make significant improvements without raising taxes. We do not have to resort to raising the gas tax, something that would hurt our lowest earners the most, if we follow through with making roads and bridges the spending priorities people agree they are.
Stay in touch as things unfold at the Capitol. Also, look for the House to come forward with a package of tax relief. I will provide more details on those proposals in an upcoming email.