Transportation funding, omnibus bills on tap at Capitol

Published 10:10 am Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The March 31 deadline for committees to act favorably on major appropriation and finance bills has now passed; while the deadlines do not apply to committees on Capital Investment, Ways and Means, or Taxes, we are approaching the negotiation-heavy weeks in the second half of session.

With a clear picture of our state’s budget and committee budget targets set, much of the most recent conversation has revolved around transportation. The House Republican majority recently released their transportation funding plan, which would use $3.5 billion in general fund money over the next 10 years.

Transportation funding is a contentious issue but it is one that should seek bipartisan support and a comprehensive, sustainable approach. Relying so heavily on the general fund has some drawbacks; if the economy undergoes another downturn, the funding planned to come from the general fund may no longer be available. I am open to using general fund dollars for transportation, but we should also find sustainable revenue that can support our ongoing infrastructure needs.

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Uncertainty at the federal level requires caution with how we budget in Minnesota. Responsible investments in Minnesota’s economy will capitalize on our healthy economic outlook.

Now that the Legislature is moving into the final two months of session, omnibus bills are being rolled out. Of the 10 bills I have introduced this session, five have been included in their relevant omnibus bills. Four more are bonding projects that I hope will be included when the Republican majority releases their bonding bill later this session.

My individual bills folded into the omnibus bills include funding for caregiver support programs, loan forgiveness for our agricultural education teachers, community design funding, and money for the Farm Advocates Program.

Having 50 percent of my bills included in legislation carried by the Republican majority is a good signal that the effort I put into finding bipartisan solutions for Minnesotans is paying off.

While we have not seen a full bonding bill released by the majority, we expect it will be in the neighborhood of $800 million; small compared to recent successful bonding bills, especially when considering the lack of a bonding bill last session.

Passing a bonding bill requires more than a simple majority. Eighty-one votes are required to pass a bonding bill, which means bipartisan support is required. Having a smaller bonding bill makes securing that support more difficult, since each representative is trying to obtain funding for projects in their district; if their projects are not included, it can make voting ‘yes’ on the bill much harder.

Bonding and transportation projects are an integral part of updating infrastructure around our state and a responsible, bipartisan effort will yield better results for all Minnesotans.

You can reach me by phone at 651-296-4193, by mail at 291 State Office Building, 100 Martin Luther King Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155, or via email