Minnesota voters this week directed their state government
to stop diverting money intended for transportation to other budgets.
Nearly 60 percent of voters across the state approved a
change to the state's constitution that requires all motor vehicle sales taxes
to be dedicated solely for roads, bridges and transit. Currently, about half of
that tax revenue - 46 percent - is rerouted to the state's general fund, the Elk
River Star News reported.
The change is projected to generate about $300 million
annually after a five-year phase-in period. It will offer the state's first
dedicated source of funding for transit.
Transportation advocates said the proposal is a step in the
right direction but more than $1 billion is needed each year to meet
construction and maintenance needs.
Margaret Donahoe, legislative director of the Minnesota
Transportation Alliance, told "Land Line Now" on XM Satellite Radio that "because
the state has neglected transportation for many years and we have such a big
backlog of projects $300 million is not a huge amount of money in terms of
Donahoe said the state still would need to pursue other
sources of revenue to pay for all the needed transportation work.
Opponents said the amendment was 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
"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, in the days leading
up to Election Day.
Others said dedicating all MVST for transportation will hurt
schools and colleges, which rely heavily on general funds.
The Minnesota Legislature and Gov. Tim Pawlenty will need to
decide how to spend the money.
- By Keith Goble, state legislative editor