The chairs of the House and Senate Transportation Finance Committees are calling on Gov. Dayton to call a special session so the Legislature can pass a funding bill that would keep MnDOT workers on the job and ensure that road construction projects continue.
Rep. Mike Beard, R-Shakopee, and Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, say they intend to visit every MnDOT district headquarters plus other construction and infrastructure sites over the next eight days.
They note that most of the money in the transportation budget is money that has to be spent on roads, bridges and transit projects. The funds are generated by the gas tax, license tab fees and the motor vehicle sales tax. They say a state government shutdown on July 1 would force contractors to shutter road construction projects because MnDOT employees would no longer be working to approve permits and other matters.
“We have typically six or seven months in order to accomplish what other states have all year to accomplish,” Gimse said. “We can’t afford to have our MnDOT employees and our contractors sit on the sideline at this critical time.”
Gimse and Beard say they want Dayton to call a special session so the Legislature can quickly pass a $4.6 billion budget bill that spends the dedicated money for transportation projects. They say those funds have nothing to do with the general fund budget. Republicans also say the funding dispute over transit projects can continue to be worked out in much broader budget negotiations.
“Sign this bill and you have our word that when you reach a global agreement we’ll put more money in the transit operations,” Beard said. He said transit advocates have been reluctant to separate road funding from transit projects.
Dayton has been highly critical of Republican lawmakers for proposing a budget that cuts funding for transit. He says that would result in increased fares and a possible end to some transit lines.
A spokeswoman for Dayton said the governor does not intend to call a special session over transportation issues. She pointed to his repeated comments that he won’t call a special session until there is agreement on a total budget deal.
Dayton has submitted a petition to Ramsey County District Court requesting a judge to continue core services. The list did not include road construction. Several Republicans argue Dayton’s proposal is geared towards building pressure on Republican lawmakers to reach a budget deal with him.
“What the governor’s plan seems to me is that he wants to inflict maximum
gain pain for political gain,” Sen. Al DeKruif, R-Madison Lake, said.
Dayton has said his petition is not based on the projects he wants to fund but the projects that he thinks have to keep operating even if a shutdown occurs.