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Twin Cities mayors driving push to boost transit through sales tax hike

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In a year when the governor and the whole state legislature is up for re-election, who will lead a campaign to raise the Twin Cities sales tax to fund transit improvements?

How about a pair of mayors who just locked up their own four-year terms?

The Pioneer Press reports St. Paul's Chris Coleman and Minneapolis' Betsy Hodges made the pitch to business professionals Wednesday at an appearance before both cities' chambers of commerce.

The mayors, the newspaper reports, argued for transit upgrades, saying that cities are competing for talented young workers who increasingly want to live without cars.

The Star Tribune says Hodges posited a question she says strikes at the heart of her goal to raise Minneapolis' population by 100,000: “One of the core pieces of that is ‘Do we have the kind of transit and transportation network that allows people to live without a car?’”

The mayors also pointed to business development sprouting along transit networks, particularly the 100 construction projects the Metropolitan Council says have started along the Central Corridor light rail line slated to open this summer.

Both cities are looking beyond the opening of the Green Line, as it will be called, toward additional light rail, bus rapid transit, and development of streetcar lines.

Gaining political support for a region-wide half-cent sales tax increase to help pay for such projects promises to be a challenge. When Gov. Mark Dayton made the same proposal in 2012 it was approved by the state Senate but rejected by the House, whose members are elected in all even-numbered years. Coleman and Hodges, conversely, have only just started their new terms after winning November elections.

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