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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Minn. Democrats to unveil transit funding plan

  • Democratic leaders from the Legislature's transportation committees said Monday that they will unveil a proposal next week for funding improvements to roads, bridges and transit across Minnesota.
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  • Democratic leaders from the Legislature's transportation committees said Monday that they will unveil a proposal next week for funding improvements to roads, bridges and transit across Minnesota.
    Sen. Scott Dibble and Rep. Frank Hornstein, both from Minneapolis, announced their intentions following an informational hearing on current transportation needs. The lawmakers, who chair the transportation committees in the Senate and House, will release details of their plan at a joint hearing on Feb. 18, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.
    While a gas tax increase or other revenue-raising measures will be tough to sell in an election year session, Hornstein said the problems can't wait.
    "Transportation challenges and projects don't go away, they just get more expensive," Hornstein said. "So by procrastinating, we're actually throwing money down the drain. That's why these projects need to get done."
    Dibble wouldn't talk about specifics, but he said he believes a "robust, comprehensive, multi-modal transportation funding package" is needed this year.
    "I don't know what the package is exactly going to look like," Dibble said. "We're still figuring that out. But clearly we're talking about putting resources on the table for the long term. They might be scalable."
    The committee chairs still need to convince Gov. Mark Dayton and Democratic legislative leaders to back their funding plan. Last week, House Speaker Paul Thissen, also a Minneapolis Democrat, said he didn't know if this was the year for a transportation funding bill.
    Dayton's transportation commissioner, Charlie Zelle, also has been looking at ways to bring in adequate funding. He told lawmakers on Monday that gas tax revenue has taken a hit from fuel-efficient vehicles and motorists who are driving fewer miles.
    "The gas tax is becoming a smaller and smaller amount of that funding and causing us the greatest challenge," Zelle said.
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