Transportation advocates gathered in front of the office of Gov. Mark Dayton to continue to push for a package of road and transit funding worth billions of dollars, even as a deal between legislative leaders and Dayton seems unlikely.
"The two sides are not that far apart," said Dave Van Hattum, chair of the Transportation Forward coalition, referring to broad agreement on the size of the package, which DFLer and Republicans say should be $6 billion over 10 years.
But that's where the agreement ends. Dayton and his DFL allies in the Legislature want more revenue, while Republicans want money drawn from existing funds. DFLers also want more money for metro area transit, while Republicans want money for roads and bridges.
Republicans are adamently opposed to new light rail lines, and especially Southwest LRT from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie, calling it inefficient.
Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said infrastructure improvments are needed to pave the way for future economic growth in the metro and sought to rebut what he called "phony arguments being ginned up" by GOP opponents of light rail. The Green and Blue lines have been a great success and the network should be expanded, he said.
Dayton and legislative leaders were scheduled to meet Tuesday morning to discuss a possible special legislative session that would take up tax cuts and public works, including water infrastructure, university buildings and some road and bridge projects.
Light rail has continued to be a major barrier in the negotiations, which have seen little headway since the end of the legislative session May 23. Both sides have also acknowledged that a major transportation package is unlikely in any special session given the wide gulf.