Today the House voted 112-21 to send a transportation funding bill over to the Senate. The bill funds state transportation programs at $7.274 billion over the next two years and provides for a similar amount in the following two years. That is about a 22 percent increase over previous biennium transportation base funding.
While it can be easy to find reasons to vote against a bill, for example $10 million in state tax dollars to support a 2nd AMTRAK train from Saint Paul to Chicago, I voted in favor of the bill. In addition to an increase in base funding for our state highway systems, the bill includes several funding elements that directly impact our local units of government.
The package contains a variety of special transportation funding programs including; small cities $18 million, town roads $12 million local roads $5.5 million and local bridges $14 million.
Of the $18 million targeted for small cities, our area will receive about $469,721. It is estimated that will break out as follows: Crosby $46,780, Crosslake $89,362, Cuyuna $18,488, Deerwood $20,968, Emily $52,602, Fifty Lakes $39,333, Fort Ripley $14,193, Garrison $17,738, Ironton $19,580, Manhattan Beach $9,288, Riverton $13,040, Trommald $13,713, Aitkin $42,395, Hill City $22,763, McGrath $11,733, McGregor $16,450, Palisade $11,894, and Tamarack $9,401.
Another critical element of the bill includes reopening all 93 driver testing locations within the state. The bill also provides for additional State Highway Patrol and Capitol security officers. It is critical that we continue to support law enforcement, in particular the important role that state troopers are now having to play in augmenting public safety efforts across Minnesota and in particular in the metro area.
What was not included in the bill is also important. The governor and House majority’s proposed $1.6 million in new gas taxes, tab fees, auto registration fees and additional vehicle sales taxes, none of that is in the bill. “Driver’s licenses for all,” which is code for driver’s licenses for those not legally in the U.S., was also removed from the bill.
The bill is now in the Senate’s hands. I believe most of the rough edges have been chiseled off this bill and I look forward to it reaching the governor’s desk pretty much like we voted it off the floor of the House. We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are making progress.