Many of you know that the House bonding and transportation package failed to pass the Senate on the last night of session due to the Senate DFL Majority adding an amendment to fund the SouthWest Light Rail project. I think it’s important to outline the details of this project, and explain why Republicans are dead-set against it.
Back in July of 2015, Met Council Chair and Dayton appointee, Adam Duininck, wrote a letter to the chair of the Senate Transportation Committee stating that the SouthWest Light Rail (SW LTR) project would not go forward without the financial help of the legislature in this biennium.
The DFL Senate Majority’s last ditch effort to fund SW LTR by attaching an amendment to the bonding bill after the House had already adjourned killed the bonding and transportation bill, and our Republican House Majority has made it crystal clear that we will not support SW LTR funding. One can assume then, according to Council Chair Duininck’s own promise, that the Met Council will no longer pursue SW LTR funding.
Since session ended without allocating any funding for SW LTR, Chair Duininck has started hinting that he and Governor Dayton are finding ways to bypass the legislature in finding funding for this project.
A statement from the Met Council’s website reads as follows: “As we look ahead to a ticking clock on $900 million in federal funds, we are talking with our project partners….on any possible ways to fill the remaining gap. SW LRT remains a strong project, with overwhelming support from the communities, businesses and local elected officials along the line, and we are determined to find a solution to keep the project on schedule.”
But this goes against paperwork that the Met Council submitted to the federal government that said "SW LTR will be state-funded". The documents read “The State is currently anticipated to fund approximately 9.2 percent of the…cost through a combination of a new transit sales tax, bonding, or appropriations.”
Documents also suggest that funding for the project is “dynamically resilient,” even though four of seven metropolitan counties have declined to support the project.
Since the SW LTR project does not pass a basic cost-benefit analysis, the Federal Transportation Administration only gave the project a “medium” rating. The inefficiency of the project has lead 41 city councils in the metro area to sign a resolution asking for a complete reworking of how the unelected Met Council is managed.
The Council’s pet SW LTR project won’t just require Minnesota taxpayers to foot the building costs; it is an on-going, extremely costly commitment. Projections from the Council itself estimate the following on-going costs:
-$58 million in annual operating/maintenance
-$15.7 million in fare box revenue, assuming riders pay the fares. (Currently, many Light Rail riders are not paying a fare, so as with most government projections, this is just an optimistic projection)
This leaves $42 million in operating costs to be subsidized by Minnesota taxpayers.
This continuing, astronomical financial commitment by the taxpayers of the metro, and of Minnesota at large, is exactly why our Republican Majority in the House does not support any state financing of the South West Light Rail project. It’s one of the most absurd wastes of money we have seen in my years at the legislature.
For more information, here is an article by Kim Crockett of the Center for the American Experiment: http://www.americanexperiment.org/2016/06/fair-ask-whether-governor-dayton-man-word/
Remember, Light Rail is to transportation what ObamaCare and MNsure are to Healthcare. If you like your health insurance premiums, you're going to love Light Rail. The long term result will be poor roads and bridges for rural areas in exchange for billions spent on boondoggle Light Rail projects.
I will continue to keep you updated regarding a special session and a bonding/transportation agreement. I hope we will come to a conclusion on this issue very soon, and that the Governor will call a special session in the near future, without holding transportation funding hostage to his $500 million list of spending demands for the bonding bill.