Transportation Constitutional Amendment--posted by Tony Garcia on 6/05/2006
Sounds like a good idea but is it really? The Transportation Constitutional Amendment that will be up for a vote in November says it will help transportation by making 100% of the sales taxes on cars and trucks dedicated to roads and transit.
Whoops...did you catch that? Let's rewind and replay with emphasis on the bad part.
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it will help transportation by making 100% of the sales taxes on cars and trucks dedicated to roads and transit.
I was talking with my state representative years ago about a bill they were marking up in committee. I thought it sounded like a good bill...more money dedicated from the general fund to transportation. After all, we need to expand the roads, and...
He interrupted me. "Transportation is the key problem. What does that mean to you?"
"Roads, cars, trucks...why? What does it mean to you?"
He answered, "That's what is SHOULD mean. But it does also include rails and buses. Unless you specifically say "roads" the money will be directed towards rails & buses before roads get a crack. Beware...the 60%-40% for roads to rail will be the next target. After that expect it to be 50%-50% and getting worse after that. It is all about that word, 'transportation'. What you want MUST say roads or you lose that battle in the long run."
How interesting. That was almost 10 years ago. This year we got a budget proposal from the "Roads over Rail" Governor that allocated 60/40 roads/rail. (Remember the billboards in 2002 for Pawlenty...a car with "Republican" next to it, a train with "Democrat" next to it and a bicycle with "Green" next to it? I do.) Now we have a an amendment whose supporters even admit that the MAXIMUM spent on roads will be 60%.
Go to that link and look at the FAQ.
How much additional revenue will be available for highways and public transit if the amendment is approved?Answer: General Fund Now = 46%, After Amendment = 0% (sounds good). Roads/Bridges Now = 31%, After Amendment = Up to 60% (there is that maximum). Transit = 23%, After Amendment = At least 40% (and there is the MINIMUM).
There will be an additional $300 million in revenue per year available for improvements to the state’s roads, bridges and transit once the five-year phase-in is complete.
The smoke and mirrors continue 2 questions later on the FAQ.
How will passage of the amendment benefit our state?Yes, roads are important. But the problem is the Amendment will put a cap on the amount going to roads. This answer in the FAQ provides the mistaken appearance the roads are going to remain a priority. With a cap they cannot.
Minnesotans understand that our roads and highways need to be improved, and that more transit investment is necessary. Dedication of all transportation revenue to transportation will fund critical improvements throughout the state and will provide a dedicated revenue source for public transit projects. This additional investment will help create a balanced transportation system that can better serve our economy and our quality of life in Minnesota.
Roads are important. They are THE only way goods get delivered directly to companies. Rail helps but does not get the items to the final destination. Buses do nothing for goods and services. The importance of roads far, far, far outweigh the importance of transit rail or buses. And, yes, I ride the bus...not out of necessity but for convenience. For 100% of the people on my bus it is convenience not necessity. And we just got a nice CONVENIENT rail bonding bill signed this past Friday. The point? Roads are necessary while other transit are mostly conveniences fulfilled. But this Amendment treats the roads as an item to be limited...and eventually diminished. Rep. Rhodes, boy did you nail this one!
SIDENOTE: I think a very key question for candidates this year is what will they advocate for as a solution to the general fund shortfall as a result of this Amendment. This is a chance for fiscal conservatives to shine! Will they?
The Transportation Constitutional Amendment is good on the surface but the devil is in the details...and these details to not justify a Yes vote.