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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL)

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Release: Minnesota House Passes Transportation Conference Committee Report

Sunday, May 21, 2023

St. Paul, Minn. Today, the Minnesota House of Representatives approved the strongest transportation budget in a generation. The vote was 69-61. The legislation makes investments in roads, bridges, and transit systems across the state. It appropriates $650 million to unlock more than $7.8 billion dollars in federal funds and places a high priority on curbing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

“Nothing builds our economy or lifts people out of poverty more than strong transportation investments,” said Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis), chair of the House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee. “Our generational transportation budget will help people get to jobs. We are helping businesses thrive and communities grow with a strong transportation and transit system. In this budget, Democrats are championing safety, strengthening communities – including the creation of new job opportunities, tackling climate change, and ensuring our state’s transportation system is equitable, no matter where you live, or the mode you use to get around.” 

The bill provides for a first-ever dedicated, ongoing funding source for small cities with populations less than 5,000, supports the successful Corridors for Commerce Program, and finances a new passenger rail line from the Twin Cities to Duluth. In light of recent train derailments, the bill adds two rail safety inspectors.

The Transportation Conference Committee Report delivers sustainable, dedicated, ongoing funding for roads, bridges, and transit over the next four years, investing more than $3.9 billion in fixing our critical infrastructure statewide. A minimal increase in the state gas tax is offset by a new law that repealed Minnesota’s minimum markup law.  A road maintenance fee of $.50 on deliveries costing more than $100 with food, medical supplies, and baby products exempt will also fund repairs of Minnesota roads. Analysis from the American Public Transportation Association shows a 5:1 economic return with strong investments in public transit; getting people to work, school, the grocery store, and overall contributing to our state’s local economy.

DFLers are utilizing these strategies to comprehensively invest in Minnesota’s crumbling infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers has graded Minnesota roads with a D+, which is currently putting the safety of drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists at risk, plus causing significant costs of replacing blown-out tires, wheel bearings, axles, and more. The investments will also create an estimated 50,000 jobs over the next four years. 

“Minnesotans deserve safe and reliable transportation options, whether that’s a car, bus, train, bike, or however they choose to get around,” said Rep. Brad Tabke (DFL – Shakopee), Vice Chair of the House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee. “As we set our state budget, our investments are made all the more effective when Minnesotans can get to where they need to be, and this Transportation budget makes the once-in-a-generation investments that lay the groundwork for our state to thrive.”

The Transportation Conference Committee Report also reflects DFLers’ commitment to slowing the effects of climate change. Transportation is the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions. The transportation bill invests in statewide public transit, electric vehicles, and funding for nonmotorized transportation options and emissions impact assessments.

DFLers are prioritizing safety investments in their transportation conference committee report, with a variety of measures including the creation of a Traffic Safety Advisory Council to collaborate on innovative and cross-sector solutions to counter Minnesota’s growing problem with dangerous driving and traffic fatalities. The bill also establishes a new Transit Rider Investment Program (TRIP) to enforce fare payment via administrative citations, monitor passenger activity, act as a liaison to social services, assist and accompany riders, and obtain assistance from officers when necessary. It provides funding to help ensure Minnesota students can safely walk and bike to school and commits ongoing investments in active transportation to ensure communities have safe non-motorized options. 

“Minnesotans expect our transportation system to be safe, modern, and efficient. But over the years, funding has not kept up with inflation. We need to invest in all modes — roads, rail, ports, airports, transit, bikes, and pedestrians,” said Speaker Melissa Hortman. “The DFL budget balances addressing current transportation needs while building a stronger and more sustainable transportation system moving forward by leveraging federal investments, and improving safety for all Minnesotans. 

It also contains important changes to improve efficiencies in Minnesota’s Driver and Vehicle Services. The legislation delivers initiatives to provide better customer experiences with DVS including maintaining all current exam sites, support for our deputy registrars, and expanded remote renewal options.

“Minnesotans deserve to be safe when they travel on our state’s roads and bridges, but the Legislature has not adequately funded our transportation system for years, with the last infusion of new resources dating back to 2008,” said House Majority Leader Jamie Long. “I want to thank my colleague and friend Transportation Committee Chair Rep. Frank Hornstein for putting forth this bold, innovative proposal that would finally make the needed investments in our roads, bridges, and transit that Minnesotans are asking for. This is a good bill and it will benefit workers, families, businesses, and entire communities for years to come.” 

The legislation Democrats are championing in the report also includes investments for the assessment and predesign of a new State Patrol headquarters building, and funds helicopter replacement and additional aircraft to provide better operations and functionality for search and rescue.