PoliGraph: Union right on Emmer’s transportation votes

A new mailer from the Minnesota AFL-CIO links Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer to the I-35W bridge collapse.

The mailer, which features a picture of a truck and school bus tumbling toward the Mississippi River as the bridge crumbled, says, “Emmer voted three times against funds that would have repaired broken infrastructure across Minnesota, including the I-35 bridge. He even voted against the final attempt to rebuild infrastructure before the bridge collapsed.”

The labor union mailer also states that, “Emmer was one of only ten representatives that voted against efforts to compensate victims of the bridge collapse” and that “Emmer opposed a $6.6 billion plan to rebuild roads, bridges, and transit throughout Minnesota even after the I-35 bridge collapse.”

For the most part, these claims are true.

The Evidence

“Emmer voted three times against funds that would have repaired broken infrastructure across Minnesota, including the I-35 bridge. He even voted against the final attempt to rebuild infrastructure before the bridge collapsed.”

Emmer voted against the 2007 transportation funding bill three times: the House version passed in March, a merged House and Senate version in May; and an unsuccessful effort to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of the legislation.

But there are a few important caveats to this claim. First, Emmer’s opposition to the transportation bill wasn’t the reason it failed. House leaders needed 90 members to override Pawlenty’s veto, but only secured 83.

It’s also crucial to note that there was no specific provision in the bill to update the I-35W bridge, as the AFL-CIO’s claim implies. However, it would have expanded the trunk highway fund and bonds, which cover bridge repair – precisely the sources of money that might have allowed the Minnesota Department of Transportation to renovate or replace the bridge sooner.

For several years, the I-35W bridge had been on MnDOT’s “Budget Buster” list, meaning it needed replacement or repair within 10 years. But according to MnDOT documents, overhauling the bridge was postponed due to funding woes.

“Emmer was one of only ten representatives that voted against efforts to compensate victims of the bridge collapse.”

This claim is also true. Emmer was among a handful of members who voted against a bill that set up a $40 million compensation fund for survivors of the bridge collapse. Like his fellow Republicans, Emmer questioned whether the state could afford the fund in lean times, and he objected to a provision that allows the fund to be used to pay damages to victims of future disasters.

“Emmer opposed a $6.6 billion plan to rebuild roads, bridges, and transit throughout Minnesota even after the I-35 bridge collapse.”

The final vote in question came in February, 2008. The bill, a direct result of the collapse, provided funding for road and bridge repairs and money meant specifically for the I-35W bridge. Emmer voted against this bill as well.

The Verdict

For the most part, the AFL-CIO mailer is correct. On three occasions, Emmer voted against legislation having to do with the bridge collapse or general bridge repair in the state, though it’s important to note that the 2007 transportation funding bill did not specify repairs to the I-35W bridge.

Sources

AFL-CIO mailer

Minnesota State Legislature, Actions on HF 946: The 2007 Omnibus Transportation Bill, accessed Sept. 21, 2010

Minnesota State Legislature, House Journal: March 24, 2007, p. 2016, accessed Sept. 21, 2010

Minnesota State Legislature, House Journal: May 14, 2007, p. 6640, accessed Sept. 21, 2010

Minnesota State Legislature, House Journal May 21, 2010, p. 7571, accessed Sept. 21, 2010

Minnesota House of Representatives Research, Summary: HF 946, May 11, 2007

The Minnesota State Legislature, Investigative Report to Joint Committee to Investigate the I-35W Bridge Collapse, Gray, Plant, Mooty, May 2008

MN2020, 451 Minnesota Bridges “Functionally Obsolete” By Conrad deFiebre, Aug. 2, 2007

The Minneapolis Star Tribune, House OKs $40 million for bridge survivors, by Pat Doyle, Feb. 29, 2008

The Minnesota State Legislature, Actions on HF 2553, accessed Sept. 21, 2010

The Minnesota State Legislature, House Journal May 5, 2008, p. 11270, accessed Sept. 21, 2010

The Minnesota State Legislature, Action on HF2800, accessed Sept. 21, 2010

The Minnesota State Legislature, House Journal Feb 21, 2008, p. 7884, accessed Sept. 21, 2010

Interview, Chris Shields, Communications Director, Minnesota AFL-CIO, Sept. 21, 2010

Interview, Margaret Donahoe, Executive Director, Minnesota Transportation Alliance, Sept. 2, 2010

  • Jay Reeves

    As a person that watched as those vehicles fell, I can’t say that the use of that image does much for me. What respect is there for the man who died in that semi?

  • Kevin

    hehehe… Not surprised.

    Actually Our current governor I suspect as he was PUSHING the repairs set for possible grand opening during Republican convention….

    That push made those doing the work absent minded on the safe guards….

  • Clareee

    How abut getting rid of the “art” that has to be in any highway building project? I believe in Minneapolis, DOT had to use $2 million to beautify different things. This money coud be used outstate for the smaller projects that have been sitting for years. The repair trucks and heavy items on the one closed lane of 35W I think had a lot to do with the bridge going down. I don’t know why that was ever allowed. It was always scary to me.