Minnesota Legislature Must do Better
The Olmsted County Board of Commissioners wrote the following Opinion Editorial which was published in the Post Bulletin. I supported the OpEd because I believe the State Legislature did not meet its responsibility in satisfactorily funding county needs for the maintenance and construction of county roads. This past legislative session very little was afforded to the counties for roads. Olmsted received the amount equal to the cost of about 1.25 miles of bituminous overlay for 2017 and 2018. Olmsted County needs to overlay about 30 miles each year to to keep our roads safe and in good condition. Additionally, Olmsted has had to delay needed projects because of lack of funds. Without reasonable funding from the State, it will be Olmsted County residents that will have to pay more through sales taxes and/or wheelage taxes. With the enormous amount of commuters, (close to 34,000 from outside the city of Rochester), and the need for efficient commercial movement of goods and services, and to avoid more expensive repairs in the future, Olmsted must keep its roads in good condition. The State Legislature must do better to assist Olmsted and the other counties in funding transportation needs.
Legislature again whiffed on transportation funding
Post Bulletin Jun 21, 2017
After years of advocating and campaigning for a transportation bill that will provide a reliable, ongoing source of funding to maintain our roads and bridges, the 2017 Legislature finally passed a bill that makes progress, but falls far short of the $600 million a year needed to maintain Minnesota’s roads and bridges.
Even more disappointing is that, once again, what was approved is mostly one-time funding only.
While some funding is better than none, the transportation bill passed in last month’s special legislative session has avoided addressing the reality of our state’s transportation needs. For example, Olmsted County will receive $340,000 in 2018 and $367,000 in 2019. At a current cost of $295,000 a mile, this is enough funding to do just over one mile a year of the blacktop overlay needed every 10 years to preserve a county road. With 520 miles of road, Olmsted County should be doing 30 miles of overlay road maintenance every year, but we cannot.
Ironically, while the Legislature refuses to raise the gas tax or find another source of funding to commit to transportation on an ongoing basis, legislators have been willing to let local units of government increase taxes to plug part of the transportation funding gap. All across this state, county governments, including Olmsted County, have stepped up and approved wheelage taxes or local option sales taxes in order to be able to maintain or improve their roads and bridges. Citizens have not objected. They understand the need to pay for our roads and bridges. Why don’t our legislators?
Local units of government need the Legislature to create a permanent, predictable source of revenue for transportation. Minnesota’s roads and bridges are vital to ensuring economic stability and growth. There is widespread agreement that one of the core functions of government is to provide a well-maintained system of roads and bridges that allows for the efficient and safe movement of products and people within our communities and throughout our state. Whether they are workforce commuters, a business moving products and providing services, a farmer taking products to market, truckers moving goods and materials, students going to and from school, or people heading to fish or hunt, everyone depends on our roads and bridges. Everyone needs them to be maintained.
Legislators, please take note that counties across the state have passed the local option sales tax and wheelage taxes that are dedicated to roads and bridges. There has been almost no objection. Now you should step up to the plate and make a commitment to a permanent, sustainable, predictable funding stream for transportation.
Citizens, business and agriculture leaders, local elected officials, let’s join forces and be of one voice to urge our legislators to establish a permanent, sustainable source of funding that will assure that our roads and bridges provide the infrastructure we need for our safety and economic vitality.
Transportation is the cornerstone of our economy and we can not allow it to deteriorate. Olmsted County Board members will advocate continually for a stable and predictable source of revenue for this critical resource