Minnesota ballot question would set money aside for roads, transit

| Monday, October 23, 2006

With Election Day two weeks away, voters in Minnesota soon will get a say in whether a change to the state's constitution is the best way to pay for millions of dollars in transportation needs.

A proposed amendment that will be on the ballot would dedicate all motor vehicle sales taxes (MVST) solely for roads, bridges and transit. Currently, about half of MVST revenue - 46 percent - is rerouted to the state's general fund, the Elk River Star News reported.

If approved, the change is projected to generate about $300 million annually after a five-year phase-in period. It would offer the state's first dedicated source of funding for transit.

The constitutional change requires a simple majority to pass. Failure to vote on the question counts as a "no" vote.

Transportation advocates say the proposal is a step in the right direction but more than $1 billion is needed each year to meet construction and maintenance needs, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

Opponents say the amendment is poorly worded because it doesn't guarantee how money will be distributed between roads and transit. That is of particular concern for rural communities who typically don't need money for transit.

"Do I think zero will go to roads? Probably not. Do I think it could be 40 percent roads and 60 percent transit? I do think that," Rep. Dan Dorman, R-Albert Lea, told KTTC-TV in Rochester, MN.

Others say dedicating all MVST for transportation will hurt schools and colleges, which rely heavily on general funds.

Minnesotans will cast ballots on the transportation initiative Tuesday, Nov. 7. Anyone not registered to vote in the state can do so up to and including Election Day. Residents who wait until Election Day to register are required to have a photo ID with their address on it in order to vote.

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