Newspaper article

No Bill Is 'Dead' until Lawmakers Go Home

Newspaper article

No Bill Is 'Dead' until Lawmakers Go Home

Article excerpt

One quickly learns that in the Minnesota Legislature, no proposal is ever "dead" until the session ends and lawmakers go home. Bills that are voted down in committee have a way of reappearing as floor amendments or in conference committee.

That truism was proven once again Friday when a proposal to raise taxes for highways and transit was revived on the Senate floor and approved 35-27. Just two days earlier, several versions of the proposal had failed in the Senate Tax Committee.

The transportation funding proposal still faces an uphill battle. Gov. Mark Dayton says he opposes raising the gasoline tax, and the House has approved a "lights on" transportation funding bill that includes no additional resources for highways and transit.

The issue was not addressed in the budget deal announced Sunday, but the governor and legislative leaders are expected to continue talking about it.

Even before Friday's Senate vote, transit advocates had summoned allies to a rally at 11 a.m. Wednesday outside of the governor's office to press their case for increased transit funding. They say it is critical to expanding the metro bus system and moving forward with the region's third light-rail transit (LRT) line in the Southwest corridor between downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie.

"Other states across the country are not waiting to make investments in transportation. Minnesotans cannot afford to wait either: jobs and key projects are at stake, and our region cannot fall further behind," said Transit for Livable Communities (TLC) in an email to supporters.

Sales tax increase

The legislation approved Friday would raise the existing quarter- cent metro sales tax for transit by a half-cent and couple it with a nickel-a-gallon increase in the gasoline tax, the revenues from which are constitutionally dedicated to highways. Both tax increases would be phased in over four years.

Dayton has supported the sales tax increase for transit, but not the gasoline tax hike for highways. Transit advocates argue that you need the gas tax hike to get enough rural votes to pass increased transit funding.

Many House DFLers are sympathetic, but they are leery about voting for too many tax increases a year before they and the governor face re-election. …

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