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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R)

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Southwest Light Rail and Met Council overreach

Friday, August 21, 2015
Dear Friends,
 
It seems like just about every time you open the paper, there's more reports about cost overruns and problems with the proposed Southwest Light Rail line. This boondoggle project has cost taxpayers millions already despite the fact that not a single foot of rail has been built.
 
Costs keep growing, problems keep arising, and Democrats and the unelected bureaucrats at the Met Council refuse to do what's right for taxpayers: pull the plug and put a stop to this astonishing waste of public dollars.
 
Earlier this year, cost estimates jumped by $341 million to put to put the total price tag over $2 billion dollars. Officials took some steps to reduce costs, making cuts and scaling back amenities to put the price tag at $1.8 billion. Then just a week ago, MPR News and other outlets reported that the project is once again facing a funding gap of $18 million because the Federal government is now saying they will contribute less money than originally planned.
 
Perhaps the worst part of the Southwest Light Rail—similar nearly all other wasteful projects like these—is that taxpayers will never recoup their investment. Light rail lines require enormous up-front costs and taxpayer-subsidized ticket prices to ensure it is meeting arbitrary ridership goals.
 
This year Republicans took action, striking $30 million in funding allocated by the state for the Southwest Light Rail project. Republicans will continue to fight for taxpayers against this boondoggle and oppose efforts to waste your tax dollars on this project.
 
This project is yet another harmful piece of the Met Council's Thrive MSP 2040 plan, which emphasizes mass transit over automobiles and doesn't prioritize funding for our roads and bridges. Unelected bureaucrats at the Met Council think they know best how to centrally plan the Metro region, and want to force us into a plan that takes away local control from cities and forces our state and local governments to waste money on light rail, street cars, and other transit projects.
 
The Met Council is the only entity like it in the country; an unelected, regional government entity with taxing authority. It is long past time for us to put reforms in place that rein in the out-of-control power that has been placed in the Met Council. It's my hope that Democrats will join us in supporting bipartisan legislation that has been proposed to fix the Met Council so the state and our counties can avoid legal battles. Earlier this year, four counties announced they have hired legal assistance to pursue changes to the Met Council, who they believe are violating federal rules that require input from elected—not appointed—officials.
 
I will continue pushing for these reforms and continue pushing to make sure citizens and their local elected officials—not an unelected, unaccountable regional board—have power and a voice in the future of their communities.
 
Have a great weekend,
 
Glenn
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