House transportation bill clears first hurdle

The House transportation committee approved a $7 billion transportation funding bill Monday by a 13-8 vote, with one Democrat voting in favor.

The bill shifts existing taxes to a new transportation fund and borrows billions more over the coming years to pay for road and bridge projects.

Committee Chair Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, said the House strategy avoids raising taxes on gasoline, as Gov Mark Dayton and Senate Democrats are proposing.

“Whether we’re using the sales tax on auto parts, lease vehicle rental tax, or tax on rental cars themselves, all those things normally go into the general fund,” Kelly said. “We’re piling all those things together and they go into the transportation stability fund.”

Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL- Minneapolis, said that the Republican-backed bill relies too much on moving money from one pot to another.

“It’s a house of cards because we are shifting money from existing state expenses,” said Hornstein. “We’re shifting money from educating our kids, from nursing homes, from environmental protection and we’re taking it to transportation.”

The House bill also provides much less for mass transit than the governor’s plan, which would boost the sales tax in the metro area to fund transit projects.

Hornstein did successfully amend the bill to increase the fine for texting while driving to nearly $300 for a second offense.

  • Fred

    So who’s the Democrat who voted in favor of the bill?

  • Sans Comedy

    How can anyone think that building wider roads and new bridges in outstate Minnesota is more important to our economic prosperity than making sure people in the city can get to work? The Republican vendetta against transit is going to send our best and brightest to Seattle, Portland, and Chicago. But some farmers and truckers will be able to drive on US-10 without stopping at a light. Priorities!

    • Fred

      So you’re saying our state legislators and business leaders aren’t our best and brightest? I don’t think a lot of them ride transit. Ride the 74 on E 7th in St. Paul sometime and tell me again that they’re the best and the brightest.

      • Sans Comedy

        The generation you’re going to be depending on to pay into social security, subsidized senior housing, healthcare, etc. largely cannot afford cars because of the choices made to make cuts to higher education.

        Yeah, there aren’t a lot of bright bulbs on the 74. But the 21? Yes. The Green Line running through the heart of U of M? Yes. Those riding on commuter lines into Minneapolis from the suburbs? I would hope so, those buses aren’t cheap rides.

        It’s easy to point at a line running through a lower income neighborhood and go “Ha, transit is for poor, stupid people,” even if such a thought requires a worldview that I find deplorable. But when our college graduates take off for cities where they don’t have to drive 20 miles to get from Uptown to a job in Shoreview, we’ll feel the hurt. And by then we’ll be too far behind to catch up to our current peer cities, and we’ll be roped back in with Fargo, Sioux Falls, and Des Moines.

        • Sarah

          Master’s degree, work in downtown St. Paul, commute to and
          from my home everyday on the 74 bus. Be careful about those assumptions.