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House passes transportation agreement

A view of the House Chamber June 17. House Photography file photo
A view of the House Chamber June 17. House Photography file photo

Billions of dollars for the state’s roads, bridges and public transportation system could be flowing after the House voted 112-21 Wednesday to pass the omnibus transportation finance and policy bill.

Sponsored by Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls), SSHF10 would provide funding for the Department of Transportation, Department of Public Safety and the Metropolitan Council during the upcoming biennium. It now heads to the Senate where Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson) is the sponsor.

The $7.27 billion bill 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.

“A good transportation bill takes care of everyone … and every mode [of transportation] is taken care of,” Hornstein said. “…We have every mode included, we have every part of the state included … many people will benefit from this bill.”

Several Republicans praised the bill as well.

Rep. Bjorn Olson (R-Elmore) thanked Hornstein for reaching across the aisle to work with his party on the common goal of taking care of Minnesotans, specifically mentioning funding in the bill for local roads and bridges.

“When the other side of the aisle says, ‘This is not a bad bill,’ that’s actually a pretty good compliment,” Olson said.

Rep. Paul Torkelson listens as Rep. Frank Hornstein, chair of the House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee, presents the omnibus transportation finance and policy bill Wednesday on the House Floor. Photo by Andrew VonBank

Although the final vote total reflected strong bipartisan support, debate on the bill began with an unsuccessful motion to re-refer it back to the House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee.

The committee’s Republican lead, Rep. John Petersburg (R-Waseca), who predicted the bill would receive bipartisan support during an informational hearing Tuesday, called the process used to put the bill together “extremely flawed” and said the process a bill follows is sometimes more important than the final result. He said SSHF10 should be vetted by the full committee.

“The question isn’t really about whether or not the final bill is a good one or not, it’s about the process,” Petersburg said, although he later said Hornstein had put together “a great bill” given the circumstances.

The bill includes hundreds of millions of dollars for road and bridge work around the state, along with dozens of policy provisions.

[MORE: View the research summary and spreadsheet]

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 bill has a number of 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.

It does not include any of the 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.

Proposed amendments

One of the main Republican objections to the bill was that it does not adequately address transit safety, with Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) saying the issue isn’t dealt with “in any way, shape or form in this bill.”

Republicans offered several amendments, none of which were adopted, including several that attempted to shift money from the Active Transportation program and instead use some of it, in one case for additional Metro Transit peace officers, and for other purposes such as reimbursements to law enforcement officers for soft body armor and additional state patrol funding.

Torkelson also offered an amendment, which was ruled out of order, that would have made corrections to the 2020 bonding bill, saying without the needed fixes the projects funded in that bill will grind to a halt.

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