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Balancing metro and nonmetro needs

With all the discussion about transportation needs across the state, one would conclude that surely the upcoming legislative session will prioritize them. After all, between crumbling state roads and bridges, county roads, municipal streets and township roads, it is fairly easy to demonstrate the very critical infrastructure issues.

But as usual, politics will be interjected. Hard to believe, I know, but the tired debate about whether there is a need for transit spending in the metro area will take center stage. If you are not a believer, I suggest you spend a few weeks in the Twin Cities trying to find daily parking or simply getting to and from work in a reasonable period of time. Fact is, the metro has needs and nonmetro Minnesota has needs. One cannot be ignored in favor of the other.

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the perceived preference of one over the other. Republicans have used that perception to their advantage, especially in rural Minnesota. They managed to convince voters in the last election that the DFL House ignored rural needs and somehow they could do better.

Now the time has come for the GOP-controlled House to put up and make good on their promises. Will they support a balanced transportation funding bill? One that shifts us away from a regressive fuel-based tax to a balanced and less divisive funding mechanism?

Let's hope they do, because that is what we need. I have a bill on my desk that would have generated $700 million in new revenues for state roads and bridges without increasing the regressive gas tax. Is it time to take a serious look at general fund revenues for transportation needs? It seems to me the answer is yes. Is Minnesota ready to fund, and I mean truly fund, our infrastructure needs? We can surely all agree that this is the type of infrastructure that in part is responsible for our economic growth.

Greater Minnesota should really be proud of what the 2013-14 legislature accomplished on its behalf. There were many days when various out-state delegations worked together to ensure a balanced distribution, whether the issue was transportation, education, tax relief, aids to local government or energy policy. What we did not do was sacrifice the needs of the metro. Rather, we used a balanced approach, one that we need again as we move to the next legislative session.

Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, is the Minnesota state representative for District 7B.

Erik Simonson

Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, represents District 7 in the Minnesota Senate. He may be contacted at (651) 296-4188.