Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It's About the Funding: HF2800

For all his faults, and there are many, Mitch used to be THE best blogger in the state. But over the years he has become beholden to a failed and flawed ideology. Him, and the rest of his ScaifeNet partners are so caught up in memes and talking points they have gotten to the point they don't even recognize what is really going on. Case in point, the Transportation Bill. Mitch shares the meme:
he DFL’s 6-plus billion dollar Mass Transit Subsidy “Transportation” bill.
his pork-barrel monstrosity.
Lets see who wanted to spend how much, and what they were going to spend it on.

I sent requests to both DFL and MNGOP offices yesterday to ask about their take and priorities, both funding and spending, as the veto over-ride was being debated. Mitch kept on talking about Pork in the bill, mass transit subsidy, and 6.6 billion in taxes (or was that the MNGOP commercial, I can't keep the two straight). I was curious to find out where the priorities were. You know, actual facts not ideological rhetoric. The DFL responded quickly, and I thank their staff for following up with me. I have not heard from the MNGOP, yet, but can understand that, I guess. I contacted them both on the front end, using three addresses off their staff page, and through a back channel in hopes I could get some assistance that way. Regardless, their Taxapalooza and Minnesota Majority website provided me with some of what I was looking for.

On the spending front, we had a fairly unified legislature. Sure there may have been squabbles over some of the Light rail moneys, but that was less than 20% of the bill. The 6.6 billion broken down by the DFL looks like this:

· Trunk Highways: $3.4 billion
· County State-Aid Highways: $1.5 billion
· Municipal City-Aid Streets: $392 million
· Greater Minnesota Transit: $58 million
· Metropolitan Area Transit: $1.1 billion

Furthermore, the 'pork' isn't there, Mr. Berg. The majority of these broad spending guidelines are left at the discretion of MNDot. But there are some specifics in the bill:
The projects laid out in the bill are specifically 13 fracture critical bridges, including Hastings and Lafayette, and some language that makes sure Highways 60 and 14 get changed to 4 lanes.
MN Majority lists other projects that can be completed now that the moneys are there:
* I-94/I-694 from Brooklyn Blvd to I-494
* Hwy 100 north of I-394
* I-394 HOV lane conversion to MnPASS
* I-394 westbound auxiliary lane from Louisiana Ave to Hwy 169
* I-494 from France Ave to Hwy 212
* I-494 from Hwy 5 to Carlson Parkway
* I-494 first portion of Wakota Bridge
* I-94 from McKnight Rd to Hwy 120
* Hwy 100 auxiliary lanes from Hwy 7 to I-394 Hwy 169 at Anderson Lakes Parkway and Pioneer Trail
And yet, ScaifeNet proclaims the 6.6 billion spending are over board and pork barrel, but what did the GOP proposal look like (careful PDF) WHAT, over 7.5 BILLION. Almost 1 BILLION more than the approved legislation. That can't be . . . . Oh sure it can. The Right is good at finagling numbers. And where they wanted to raised a billion more than is in the bill, I can't find what they were going to spend it on. Which leads me to believe they weren't really in dispute of the spending formulas, only the funding portion.

The DFL funding was balanced and reasonable. I would have liked to see the Sales tax portion off the table, and an incorporation of some of the creative financing mechanisms in the GOP proposal included. But when someone refuses to negotiate in good faith you have no choice but to go it alone. And in this case, 6 brave and fiscally responsible Republicans recognized that.
· Five-cent gas tax increase: $160 million/year ($1.6 billion over 10 years)

· Debt service surcharge: $110 million/year when 3.5-cent cap reached in 2013 ($922 million over 10 years).

· Metropolitan area quarter-cent sales tax: $110 million/year ($1.1 billion over 10 years)

· Vehicle registration tax changes: $1.9 billion over 10 years

· Trunk highway bonding: $1.8 billion over 10 years
So that's where we are at. The GOP will point fingers without accepting responsibility. They chose to play hard ball and the DFL called their bluff. Sane and reasonable people prevailed and the future of our transportation infrastructure is on its way to the 21st century.

Instead of recognizing their failure, they are instituting a purity test and will go after the renegades within their caucus. That is fine, I guess, in the short term. All that will do is replace those members with true blue Democratic candidates. But that has been the case with these Right Winger ScaifeNet blogs of late. They do more to elect more Democrats than those on the Left. For that, I thank them!!


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