It is disheartening to read how our representatives are slicing and dicing us to determine who should pay for the different parts of a transportation bill.
Gov. Mark Dayton wants to increase either the gas tax or the license tabs. Why? Why should only drivers be expected to carry the burden? Minnesotans who do not drive still depend on reliable roads and bridges to bring supplies and mail.
And why does House Speaker Kurt Daudt think that rural Minnesotans should not be expected to pay for public transportation? Individuals who use public transportation lessen the impact of their cars and trucks on the roads.
We should acknowledge that our harsh winters put an extra toll on roads and bridges, and all of us should expect to pay for their maintenance. Instead of selecting the ones who should and should not bear the cost, why not increase our income taxes that, by definition, are progressive ones? Alternatively, we can increase the sales tax for a specific period and assure that the proceeds are dedicated to maintaining roads and bridges.
Last, we can eliminate the exemptions of some items from sales tax while offering a rebate to low-income taxpayers at tax time.
Hanna Hill, Plymouth
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For the most part, I approve of Dayton’s decisions. However, raising license tab fees is just another form of property taxes, which are based on values that do not reflect what people are able to pay. This becomes more apparent to people like me who retire at a relatively high earning level only to find they are basically put into a position of essentially a fixed income from that point on. Let’s rethink this whole idea of any kind of property tax.
Donovan Robinson, Elk River
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The transportation bill should be paid with permanent funding sources. The people who use the roads the most should pay the most for them. Using the surplus amounts to a subsidy for the outstate counties that pay the least in taxes but receive the most revenue benefits. The surplus came from all of us, and it should be used to catch up on things that we have been deferring due to poor economic times. It was mostly raised in the metro area, and should be mostly returned to the metro area. Using it to pay for outstate roads is a typically shortsighted solution that does nothing to sustain the competitive advantage that Minnesota enjoys due to our high standard of living and great education systems. True conservatism should include investing in the future, paying our bills and maintaining what we have. It shouldn’t include “starving the general fund” as a strategy.
Martin Masters, Shoreview
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To those of us not directly connected with the political establishment, applying 100 percent of the budget surplus to transportation seems like a no-brainer. We agree that roads and bridges need work. There’s new construction needed. Time is not on our side. Just apply the surplus to the present transportation budget and get on with it!
So why are politicians saying “not so fast”?
Simply stated, there’s no better opportunity to fund pet projects than with surplus money. Money can be appropriated from the surplus without having to levy taxes for a project that may not be universally popular. All those committee meetings, House-Senate conference committees and public scrutiny are avoided. Besides, since everyone agrees that additional transportation funding is needed, getting the public to accept some kind of additional taxation for extra transportation funding is significantly easier than levying taxes for political projects.
Any politician who gets his/her project funded by the surplus in lieu of putting it to transportation needs should be voted out of office next election for ripping off the real needs of Minnesotans.
Richard Burton, Ramsey
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It is important to note that users of the roads in Minnesota include non-Minnesotans. In 2014, 57.4 billion vehicle miles were traveled in the state. That means hundreds of millions of miles are traveled by visitors, by people passing through the state and by businesses, such as trucks. Why on Earth wouldn’t we have those users share in the financing of our roads? We need more money to take care of our transportation, and by funding this just with a tab fee increase we are missing having a significant user group not share in the cost of fixing our system and increasing the proportion that Minnesotans must pay. That is bad policy and bad for Minnesotans.
Paul Scott, Bloomington
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In October 2015, Phase I of the Interstate 94 expansion from Rogers to St. Michael was completed with funding from the recently developed Corridors of Commerce program. The opening of these additional lanes on this vital economic artery already has made a major impact in our state. This was a huge accomplishment that all Minnesotans can be proud of and should seek to replicate this year and for years to come.
Phase II of this critical I-94 expansion, from St. Michael to Albertville, has received $1.4 million for preliminary engineering. A robust transportation bill, with funding for Corridors of Commerce, is crucial to ensuring that Phase II of the expansion occurs. Elected officials need to work hard to pass a transportation bill that will support the Corridors of Commerce program in these last days of the 2016 legislative session. Minnesota’s growing population and burgeoning economy require the passage of a robust transportation bill. Please put politics aside and do what’s right. Minnesota cannot afford the Legislature kicking our transportation needs down the road.
Jillian Hendrickson; mayor, Albertville, Minn.
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The Minnesota House Majority Caucus claims to be listening to the voters regarding transportation funding. It is clear that its members are not listening to: three of the largest employers in the state; the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and 44 local affiliates; most of the editors of Minnesota daily newspapers; the League of Minnesota Cities; the Association of Minnesota Counties, and many others.
It does appear that they are listening to one another.
Roger Imdieke, New London, Minn.
The writer is a member of the Kandiyohi County Board.
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The fact of the matter is that Daudt is holding Southwest light-rail hostage. Last summer I ran for St. Louis Park City Council. I knocked on thousands of doors from May to November, actively seeking residents’ thoughts and opinions on my community, including light rail. I can tell you that St. Louis Park residents overwhelmingly support the project. This is a far more representative sample than the divisive minority who have contacted his office.
If he were listening to our representatives and the communications that they’ve received, his 10 to 1 count would be far different. Just because my community is not represented by Daudt’s caucus does not make our voices count less.
Southwest light rail is more than an investment in the communities along the line — it’s an investment in our region. Without this kind of connectivity, our region will lose relevance in the future.
Minnesota needs a comprehensive transportation plan that takes into account the needs of the unique communities throughout our state. That means including all forms of transportation, including light rail.
Sara Maaske, St. Louis Park