Column: Constitutional amendment aids state roads, transit
Each year, Minnesotans are growing more frustrated with transportation problems. Delays in completing important highway projects have an impact on Minnesota's economy and threaten the safety of travelers. And anyone who has recently traveled in t...
Each year, Minnesotans are growing more frustrated with transportation problems. Delays in completing important highway projects have an impact on Minnesota's economy and threaten the safety of travelers. And anyone who has recently traveled in the Twin Cities knows our investments in roads and transit are just not keeping up with the demand.
Simply put, Minnesota's transportation system needs more money. Long-term transportation funding has been gridlocked for more than two decades. And when legislators finally do get around to debating a good idea, they continually pit greater Minnesota interests against Twin Cities needs.
Those debates have been shortsighted and unproductive. We cannot solve transportation problems by dividing the state into two parts. All Minnesotans depend on safe and efficient transportation of people and goods. And Twin Cities residents need farmers and paper-makers to deliver their products to market as much as greater Minnesota needs Twin Cities workers to get to the office.
Last year, legislators passed a transportation constitutional amendment that should unite Minnesotans. They authorized a proposal to dedicate all of the revenue from the current sales tax on cars and trucks to transportation needs. A "yes" vote on this amendment is an important first step to substantive and long-term transportation funding for both rural and metro projects.
The amendment offers a balanced solution. If Minnesota voters approve this amendment in November:
E By 2011, another $300 million will be dedicated each year to highways and transit projects.
E Up to 60 percent of the funding will be deposited in the highway user trust fund, which helps pay for road projects throughout the state.
E At least 40 percent of the money will be used for transit projects in both metro and greater Minnesota, the first-ever dedicated funding for transit in our state.
Most important, Minnesota's transportation dollars will finally be spent on transportation projects -- a promise the Legislature made 25 years ago that it is now ready to keep.
Of course, the old political fights are reappearing. The usual people in both the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota already are saying this amendment doesn't do enough for them. They are right. However, this amendment will fund dozens of important transportation projects throughout the state. But even more will need to be done if we want to improve highway safety and sustain economic growth.
Nevertheless, this constitutional amendment is a great step in the right direction. That's why hundreds of organizations and businesses have joined Minnesotans for Better Roads and Transit. Our broad-based membership includes the state's two largest business organizations, local governments, transportation specialists, organized labor, non-profit groups and public transit advocates.
Most Minnesotans recognize the need to increase transportation funding with a substantive and balanced plan. The transportation constitutional amendment does that. Now voters need to reject the political bickering that has stalled transportation funding for 20 years, and simply vote "yes."
Bob Anderson is director of public affairs for Boise Cascade Corp. in International Falls, chairman of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce's Transportation Policy Committee and a former president of the League of Minnesota Cities Board of Directors. Colleen Landkamer is a Blue Earth county commissioner from Mankato.