People in Wright County want to see a Minnesota state government that is efficient, effective and does not waste your tax dollars. Government has a necessary duty to fund things like schools and transportation infrastructure, but I think that sometimes elected officials choose to push initiatives that are far from the priorities of the taxpayers who fund them.
Proposals swarming around bonding recently have made me very concerned about the fiscal responsibility of government, and how much we're going to be charging to the state's credit card this session—taking more from future budgets and costing Minnesota taxpayers money.
First, the Senate revealed their bonding bill last week which includes $1.5 billion in General Obligation bonds for capital investment projects. With bonding bills in even numbered years averaging $800 million over the last decade, this size of borrowing goes far beyond previous bipartisan capital investment bills. What's more, debt service payments out of Minnesota's General Fund now are about $750 million a year, up from $450 million a year in 2010, and one of the fastest growing categorical expenditures in the General Fund budget. Spending the Senate's $1.5 billion proposal, or Governor Dayton's $1.4 billion bonding request, would dedicate a lot of taxpayer money going forward to debt service and is not something I can support.
All bonding bills must originate in the House (which has set a $600 million target) and must receive a three-fifths vote in each legislative body. Due to its significant size, when the Senate brought their bonding proposal up for a vote on the Senate floor on Thursday, it did not garner enough support to pass.
But of course, excessive capital investment bonding isn't the only area where Democrats are proposing to waste taxpayer money. A handful of DFL Senators have threatened to withhold their vote on a bonding bill that doesn't include $135 million for Southwest Light Rail (SWLRT), an expensive project that has grown in cost from $1.2 billion to $1.77 billion. It's unfortunate that metro area sales taxpayers have already shelled out $151 million through the end of last year for SWLRT planning and preparation, but I am hopeful no more tax dollars are wasted.
As I heard overwhelmingly in my legislative survey from people in Wright County, their transportation priority this year is a bill that improves our roads and bridge infrastructure without a tax increase. I believe the House and Senate should agree on a tax relief and transportation bill first, and that any subsequent bonding bill should include important infrastructure needs and not wasteful projects like SWLRT.
If you need assistance an issue pertaining to state government, my office is available to you. You can e-mail at Rep.Marion.ONeill@House.MN or call my office at 651-296-5063. You can also write a letter to me. My office address at the Capitol is 549 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55155.