A day after Gov. Mark Dayton proposed two different plans to pay for transportation improvements, Republicans unveiled a plan they say meets the governor halfway.
Both Republicans and Democrats have said funding transportation fixes is one of their top priorities this session, but they haven’t been able to agree on how to pay for it (which is the same thing that happened last year, and nothing substantial got passed).
House Speaker Kurt Daudt put out Republicans' proposal at a news conference Tuesday morning. The plan, like the governor's, would increase transportation funding by $600 million annually, according to a news release.
"We are prepared to meet the governor in the middle, and agree on a plan that addresses Minnesota's $6 billion need for road and bridge funding over the next decade," Daudt said in the release. "We all agree that roads and bridges are priority and let's get it done this session.”
What this plan does
Under the Republican's proposal, here's where the money would come from:
- $300 million from existing funds.
- $200 million from the trunk highway and general obligation bonds.
- $100 million from modifications to license tab fees.
Dayton's plans included taxes on metro-area counties to fund public transportation, but the Republican's proposal only deals with roads and bridges. Daudt said at the news conference that transit talks could come later.
Democrats criticize the plan
House DFL Leader Paul Thissen called it "encouraging" that the House Republicans' plan acknowledges new revenue is needed to fund roads and bridges.
But Thissen argues their offer still "relies heavily on the general fund," which he says will pit future funding for schools against transportation improvements.
He also said it was "discouraging that Republicans stubbornly refuse to invest even a penny in transit."
Legislators have until 12:01 a.m. on May 23 to wrap things up, but they’ve said they can’t address other issues until they agree on a comprehensive transportation package.
Daudt said he's meeting with Dayton and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk at 2 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the Republicans' offer.
Tax cuts, bonding bill
House Republicans also announced they want to use $450 million of the state's $900 million budget surplus for tax cuts and credits, targeted at veterans, those on social security, students, families with childcare costs, and farmers.
Daudt also said Tuesday that House Republicans would unveil their $800 million bonding bill on Wednesday. That's $200 million more than what Republicans said the bill was budgeted at earlier this year.
The Democrat-controlled Senate tried to pass its $1.5 billion bonding bill last week, but it failed by one vote. Democrats’ proposals include: broadband internet, transportation needs, investments in Minnesota’s colleges and universities and clean water.