With summer construction season in full swing, transportation projects around Minnesota that might have soon ground to a halt without action from the Legislature seem back on firmer ground.
Legislative leaders reached agreement on an omnibus transportation finance and policy bill that would provide funding for the Department of Transportation, Department of Public Safety and the Metropolitan Council during the upcoming biennium.
Sponsored by Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls), SSHF10 was the subject of an informational hearing held Tuesday by the House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee. Members discussed, and generally praised, the $7.27 billion bill, which is scheduled for debate by the full House Wednesday.
It includes $220.4 million in net General Fund spending over base during the 2022-23 biennium. The total appropriations by agency include $6.49 billion for the Department of Transportation, $516.3 million for the Department of Public Safety and $235.7 million for the Metropolitan Council.
Hornstein said the initial budget target for transportation was $200 million from the General Fund, but was revised upward during negotiations.
“I’m very pleased that this is a balanced bill between roads, bridges, transit, lots of good policy in here, it does move us forward,” Hornstein told the committee. “As with any negotiation there are disappointments but, in general, it is a solid transportation bill for what we were given in terms of a General Fund target. So I am pleased with it and hope you can support it tomorrow.”
Rep. John Petersburg (R-Waseca), the committee’s Republican lead, praised the job Hornstein did in negotiations with the Senate while also expressing concerns that the process by which the agreement was reached didn’t allow for more input from committee members.
But he also suggested that, unlike some of the recent rancorous House floor sessions, tomorrow’s debate would be robust but “well received.”
“I think it has the potential to be a very bipartisan bill,” Petersburg said.
The bill includes hundreds of millions of dollars for road and bridge work around the state, along with dozens of policy provisions.
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One-time General Fund appropriations for MnDOT include:
One-time General Fund appropriations for the Metropolitan Council include:
The Department of Public Safety would also receive a one-time General Fund appropriation of $14.8 million for grants to install school bus stop-arm cameras.
There is also $213 million in trunk highway bonding authorized in fiscal year 2022 and an additional $100 million in each year of the 2024-25 biennium for the Corridors of Commerce program.
The fiscal year 2022 appropriation would allocate $100 million for state road construction and $113 million for Regional and Community Investment Priorities that are listed in a June 19 letter from MnDOT to legislative leaders and the chairs of the House and Senate transportation committees.
The agency outlined how funding would be used for several specific projects, while qualifying that the expenditures are approximate and more money may be needed to cover further “significant funding gaps.” They include:
Several other projects would be paid through the General Fund, including:
Not included in the bill are any tax increases, such as indexing the gas tax to inflation, meant to provide more ongoing, dedicated transportation funding that were part of the omnibus transportation bill passed by the House in mid-April.
Hornstein said the Senate would not agree to any of those provisions and the one-time General Fund appropriations were “the next best thing” for now.
The bill does contains a number of policy provisions meant to address public safety issues such as ending driver’s license suspensions for a number of different violations, including unpaid traffic tickets, and reducing barriers to license reinstatement, which supporters say will allow more people to drive legally and safely.
There is also money to outfit State Troopers with body cameras and for beefed up security around the State Capitol.
Some of the other notable policy provisions in the bill would: