KEYC - Lawmakers Working To Complete Transportation

Lawmakers Working To Complete Transportation

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Members of Minnesota's House and Senate transportation committees have been working to iron out their differences to pass a two–year funding plan.

State lawmakers in the House and Senate are in the final month stretch of the legislative session, with focus turning to large funding bills including that for transportation.

Rep Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) said, "We've started meeting in conference committee this week. We meet again bright and early Monday morning to work out the differences between the House and the Senate bills. They're fairly significant but certainly not insurmountable."

Rep. Torkelson, who chairs the House Transportation Finance Committee, says one of the biggest differences is funding.

The House is looking at $6 billion over the next ten years, while the Senate is proposing about $3.6 billion over the same time period.

But one obstacle for the GOP appears to have gotten easier this week as Governor Dayton softened his opposition to a bill that doesn't include a gas–tax hike.

Rep. Torkelson said, "Certainly welcomed the news but at the same time I certainly hope the governor and his folks get involved with the process during conference committee so that we get a bill that is the shape that the governor can sign."

The GOP plans rely on similar funding proposals, including the budget surplus, bonding and shifting general funds from sales tax revenues for auto parts, car rentals and vehicle leases.

DFL lawmakers say the problem with that is there will not be new dedicated revenues for sustainable road and bridge funding, instead relying on borrowing.

Rep. Clark Johnson (DFL- North Mankato) said, "Using the general fund to pay back those bonds  and you can imagine if there's a downturn in the economy several years down the road and we've already borrowed that money to build roads, we still owe on those bonds."

After years of failing to complete a comprehensive transportation bill, lawmakers say there's a need to get it across the finish line by the end of the session on May 22.

--KEYC News 12