MARGARET DONAHOE: Stumpf's highway plan promises 'long-term, stable funding'
This letter is in response to the letter sent in by John Pederson of St Paul ("Stumpf should rethink support for tax hike," Page A4, May 2). Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, understands how critical good roads are for moving people, agricultural c...
This letter is in response to the letter sent in by John Pederson of St Paul ("Stumpf should rethink support for tax hike," Page A4, May 2).
Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, understands how critical good roads are for moving people, agricultural commodities and products safely. The transportation system is a lifeline for people in Greater Minnesota. Communities across the state need safe, dependable roads and bridges to remain strong and vibrant.
The people of Minnesota have voted through constitutional amendments to create the current Highway Trust Fund we have today. It is funded with three user fees: fuel taxes, license tab fees and sales tax on motor vehicles.
These user fees are a fair way to pay for our transportation system, and the Constitution requires that the money be used only for roads and bridges. The money can't be used for any other part of state government.
Unfortunately, those fees are not keeping up with growing demands and increasing construction costs. According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, construction costs increased more than 70 percent since 2004. Without additional state aid, local property taxes will be hit hard just to maintain the roads and bridges we have today.
The Minnesota House has put out a plan that calls for future legislatures to fund roads and bridges out of the general fund. We know that when the state is facing a budget deficit-and we will have another deficit at some point in the next decade-road and bridge work gets pushed off to prevent cuts in other important areas like education and health care.
The House plan simply is not a sustainable, long-term funding plan. The only way to guarantee the funding will be there to fix our deficient bridges and deteriorating highways in the future is to rely on constitutionally dedicated user fees.
The current general-fund surplus has been spent several times over, with all of the competing interests looking for additional dollars. It's not clear how much would be left for roads after tax cuts and increases in spending for nursing homes, education, public safety and other needs.
The transportation bill supported by Stumpf takes care of the problem for the next decade and makes sure that state and local roads are funded with highway dollars we can all depend on well into the future.
Counties across the state are asking for long-term, stable funding so they can plan ahead, the Senate's plan delivers on this request.
With continued safety and mobility problems in Greater Minnesota, now is the time to act. Inaction will only increase costs and delay efforts to reduce injuries and fatalities on our roads.