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The surplus gives Dayton the opportunity to lay out an ambitious agenda for transportation in 2015 if he wins re-election, “framing it as unfinished business,” said Lawrence Jacobs, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
Zelle and Metropolitan Council Chairwoman Susan Haigh are hosting public forums this week and next in the Twin Cities area that make a case for more transportation funding.
Minnesota ranks 38th in the nation in the quality of state highway pavement. It needs $30 billion in transportation funding for state bridges and highways over the next 20 years to be “economically competitive” but will fall $12 billion short, Zelle said.
Haigh illustrated how 11 other metro regions approved transit sales taxes greater than the quarter-cent transit tax now levied in the Twin Cities area. An attempt by Dayton last session to increase the Twin Cities transit tax by a half-cent failed.
About 70 people attended a forum this week at the Minneapolis Central Library. One of them was James Samuelson, a transit power line worker and union activist, who sees a DFL governor and DFL legislative leaders as allies promoting transportation projects that create construction jobs.
“Now we have the right people in there to get this thing moving,” Samuelson told Zelle and Haigh.
But Zelle said he’s still taking the measure of public sentiment. He said Dayton told him to “get out there and listen to what people think” about transportation. As for funding proposals, “It’s kind of early in the process. We’re all very hopeful for . Whether it’s ’14 or ’15 … we need a long-term comprehensive solution.”
Pat Doyle • 612-673-4504