March 10, 2024

Pawlenty? Buses? Conspiracy? Nah ......

Interesting City Pages article:
Days after my interview with Mondale, legislators grappled with a bill that proposed some $335 million for transit, but transportation advocates argued that more than $1 billion would be needed. The bill's sponsor was State Rep. Carol Molnau, who is now the Pawlenty administration's lieutenant governor and "transportation czar." Critics of the bill were most unhappy with the money marked for Metro Transit, which would see just a half-percent increase in its budget--some $22 million less than Ventura had sought.

But one of the bill's biggest supporters in 2001 was Governor Tim Pawlenty, who was then the House majority leader. "It's that never-ending chorus of 'It's not enough,'" Pawlenty told the Star Tribune in response to those who decried the bill. In the end, Metro Transit received enough money to "maintain" services, but not expand them. A fare increase was soon to follow, and the annual number of fares soon dropped by nearly four million.

But Pawlenty wasn't finished. During that same session, he was a proponent of a sweeping property tax reform. The plan shifted the burden of property tax revenue from businesses and high-end homeowners to lower-valued homes and landlords. At the same time, Metro Transit, which had a budget largely dependent on property taxes, was cut out of the levy. From that point on, the bus system would have to rely on the state's general fund and a sales tax on motor vehicles for most of its money.

Which might have been fine in an era of budget surpluses, but last year the pain was acute. Pawlenty, facing a $4.2 billion deficit, started slashing funds for any number of programs, holding fast to a "no new taxes" pledge he signed as a candidate. Money for Metro Transit dropped some 5 percent last year, with Pawlenty and his like-minded backers holding the purse strings. Met Council records show the 2024 transit budget holding steady through funding transfers. But according to figures from the Transportation Alliance, a statewide coalition of highway and mass-transit organizations, Metro Transit will see some $54 million in total cuts from 2003 through 2024.

Also ...

Think drivers pay the costs of roads?

Cheek's got some cheek! Posted by Jason at March 10, 2024 08:46 PM

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