St. Paul, Minn. – The Minnesota House of Representatives advanced a comprehensive transportation budget bill on a vote of 69-62.The legislation addresses urgent transportation needs, and builds a stronger and more sustainable post pandemic transportation system.
“For far too long, our transportation infrastructure has not kept up with Minnesotans’ growing needs,” said House Transportation Chair Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis). “Minnesotans deserve a dependable, sustainable, transportation system that leaves no one behind. Our plan creates jobs, and provides opportunities for communities throughout Minnesota.”
The DFL House Transportation Budget does not contain a traditional gas tax increase, but instead indexes the gas tax to the Federal Highway Administration highway construction cost index. Indexing will cost the average motorist about $9 per year and will ensure critical investments are made to our roads and bridges so they can be safely maintained. Under the bill, Minnesota’s 705 smallest cities with a population under 5,000 will receive a first ever dedicated funding stream for their roads by reallocating a small portion of the auto parts sales tax. The Small Cities Assistance Program was created to address a gap in the state funding structure for road projects.
"Minnesotans expect our transportation system to be safe, modern, and efficient. But over the years, funding has not kept up with inflation. We need to invest in all modes — roads, rail, ports, transit, bikes, and pedestrians," said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. "Minnesotans need a reliable, sustainable, and equitable transportation system that ensures we can efficiently move goods and people throughout the state."
The transportation budget plan contains a provision for the Metropolitan Council to impose a one-half cent sales tax throughout the metro transit taxing district beginning on January 1, 2022. These funds are intended to provide additional funding for bus rapid transit development, and local bus service. The legislation also makes adjustments in the motor vehicle sales tax distribution, which along with the one-half cent sales tax would provide an additional $400 million in transit funding statewide for fiscal years 22-23, and $580 million in fiscal years 24-25.
"This bill provides the necessary funding to improve the quality of roads, bridges, and transit services across the state. As our state continues to grow, it is critical that we do the hard work now so it doesn't cost us more in money, time, and safety. Roads, bridges, and transit services are the blood vessels of our economy supplying goods, services, and workers to our communities. Our transportation system must serve people and business in an affordable and efficient manner," said Rep. Erin Koegel (DFL - Spring Lake Park), Vice Chair of the House Transportation and Finance Committee. "I am optimistic that we can work with our GOP counterparts in the Senate to pass a strong budget bill that serves our entire state."
The legislation contains several equity provisions, which include funding for the Rondo land bridge project development, tribal relations training for state agencies, and ensuring more opportunity for agency contracts with BIPOC and women-owned small contractor businesses. Under the transportation budget, all Minnesotans can earn a driver’s license, regardless of immigration status by eliminating the requirement to provide proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful presence in the U.S. when applying.
“Minnesota’s transportation system is failing our workers, businesses, and communities because Republican politicians have refused to join Democrats in making investments to build a 21st century transportation system,” said Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “Republican neglect is costing families and workers in the form of car repairs, congestion, and unreliable transit service. Minnesota can have a transportation system that works for everyone, but we have to pay for it. It doesn’t happen for free.”
The House DFL is also prioritizing strategies within the transportation budget to help combat climate change and protect the environment. Notably the bill would establish the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Development Program to provide financial assistance to expand EV infrastructure and EV adoption statewide on a geographically balanced basis. The bill also aims to reduce the use of road salt, invests in energy efficiency improvements at facilities, and funds network climate vulnerability assessments among other provisions.