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Based on Heather Carlson’s reporting, MNsure isn’t sustainable without substantial taxpayer bailouts:

Lackluster enrollment in private plans and drying-up federal funds may force Minnesota to pick up more of the tab for its health insurance exchange. MNsure would get another $11.7 million of state money under Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposed budget for technological improvements, a necessary change because public-plan signups have far outpaced private-plan enrollments.

The governor is also recommending the state assume costs the federal government covered until this year, such as $1.3 million over the next two years for staff to review rate submissions from insurance companies and another $558,000 to investigate complaints. Most federal funding has expired as Washington’s aim is to make state-run health exchanges self-sufficient.

Together, those changes would bring the state’s running costs for the exchange to at least $23.5 million since it was set up in 2013.

The only way the ACA is sustainable financially is if a large number of young healthies buy qualified health plans, aka QHPs. According to Ms. Carlson’s reporting, that isn’t happening:

Lawmakers set up MNsure mostly with federal funds, aiming to sign up Minnesota residents in both private plans and public programs for lower-income families like MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance. State officials initially estimated about two-thirds of enrollments would be in those programs, with the remaining third in private plans. Instead, 91 percent of applicants have been placed in public programs, forcing the state to pitch in more money.

That’s unsustainable. Perhaps it’s unsustainable for the short term. That’s even questionable. There’s no doubt that it isn’t sustainable for the long term.

MNsure officials say they’ve altered their budget to put the exchange on a steady financial course, upping its fee on premiums from 1.5 percent to 3.5 percent and scaling back costs. But their three-year budget plan hinges on continually adding more new members in private plans than enrolled the year prior.

Anything that can’t be sustained won’t be. Inevitably, MNsure will be unaffordable. When (not if) that happens, the DFL will have egg on their faces. Republicans will criticize the DFL for implementing something that was expensive to the taxpayers and eventually, unsustainable financially.

One of the worst-kept political secrets is that the DFL is fighting with itself. That isn’t secret anymore because Gov. Dayton announced that he’s cutting the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s budget:

Dayton was nothing if not transparent about the move. The budget materials given to reporters before the late-morning briefing stated that the total of $3.77 million in reductions to the Park Board over the two-year budget period was due to “the Board’s continuing efforts to obstruct progress on the Southwest Light Rail Transit project.”

Of the total, $1.26 million would have come out of the state general fund and $2.51 million out of the natural resources fund, money intended to help the Met Council and 10 local park agencies develop and maintain parks that are regional destinations (think Minnehaha Falls). The money that would be lost by the Minneapolis board goes toward annual operating costs.

When asked about it, Dayton said it was possible he would support restoring the money, if the Park Board ended it opposition. “In my view, if they have all this money to hire consultants, they don’t need all the state money that’s been allocated to them.” Dayton said. He described the board’s actions so far as “very irresponsible.”

First, I’m totally fine with cutting the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s appropriation through the state budget. If Minneapolis wants a Park and Recreation Board, let them pay for it. In fact, eliminating the state government appropriation is justifiable, in my opinion.

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s advocates will argue that they add value to the state. That’s disputable at best. It might help Minnesota tangentially. In fact, I don’t know that a compelling case can be made that the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board makes Minneapolis substantially better.

Most importantly, this is a perfect example of why Speaker Daudt shouldn’t consider funding the Southwest Light Rail Transit project, aka the SWLRT project. The DFL is still fighting with itself on the SWLRT project. Next, regardless of whether the DFL is fighting amongst itself, the SWLRT project is a major waste of money. It’s spending tons of Minnesota taxpayers’ money on something that isn’t a priority with Minnesota’s taxpayers.

The DFL a) is proposing a massive middle class tax increase, b) is still fighting with itself on how to spend your money on their friends and c) is telling Minnesota that paying off their political allies is more important than spending your money wisely.

To use Scott Walker’s words, going big and being bold is the way to differentiate between the DFL’s payoffs and the conservatives’ priorities. Going bold is the way for Republicans to win the legislative fight in 2015, then win the 2016 election.

A political party divided against itself will soon be defeated.

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It’s clear that Gov. Dayton’s Tax-the-Rich promise is history:

Minnesota drivers would pay more at the pump and at the Department of Motor Vehicles under a plan formally rolled out by Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday, but he says the money would provide vitally needed improvements to roads, bridges and mass transit in Minnesota.

In 2010, Gov. Dayton harshly criticized Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner’s cigarette tax, saying that Minnesota needed a more progressive tax system. More importantly, where’s the proof that Minnesota’s transit system has a lengthy list of “vitally needed improvements”? I’ll stipulate that Minnesota’s transit lobbyists have a lengthy wish list of transit projects but I won’t stipulate that there’s a lengthy list of transit needs.

It’s indisputable that roads and bridges need fixing. It’s disputable that we need another DFL middle class tax increase to fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges. It’s indisputable fact that the DFL raised taxes and fees by $2.4 billion for the biennium that started on July 1, 2013. It’s indisputable that Gov. Dayton, the DFL and the transit lobbyist wing of the DFL want to raise taxes on the middle class by $1.7 billion for the biennium that starts on July 1, 2015.

That’s more than $4,000,000,000 in tax increases that the DFL wants to punish the middle class with in each biennium. The DFL’s thirst for increasing taxes is insatiable.

Think of it this way. Oil companies took advantage of the fracking boom, which led to a dramatic drop in gas prices. Gas is less than $2.00/gallon, compared with $3.50/gallon before the fracking boom. The free market giveth cheap oil prices. DFL politicians want to make gas more expensive.

In addition to DFL politicians like Gov. Dayton wanting to punish middle class car drivers with higher gas prices and higher taxes, these same DFL politicians want to force outstate Minnesotans to pay for a transit system they don’t want and will never use.

I don’t care about expanding Twin Cities transit options. They’re virtually invisible to me. I want the DFL to stop focusing on transit. I’d rather they focused on what’s important, namely fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges. The top 3 priorities for Minnesota’s politicians should be a) fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges, b) fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges and c) fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges.

Gov. Dayton’s spin is nauseating:

“It takes some political courage” to approve tax increases, he said, which in this case would not only add a new gas tax but also but also raise vehicle license fees, charge $10 more for car registrations and increase a Twin Cities sales tax. He also pledges to find $600 million from the Minnesota Department of Transportation doing things more efficiently.

That’s stunning. When House Republicans offered their proposal, it included a call for greater efficiencies within MnDOT. At the time, Gov. Dayton insisted that the Republicans’ plans were “pure fantasy.” Now that he’s proposing greater efficiency within MnDOT, he’s dropped the mean-spirited accusations.

Imagine that.

Further, it doesn’t take political courage to raise taxes. If DFL is behind your name, raising taxes is virtually reflexive. It’s like you can raise taxes without blinking an eyelash. If you’re a Republican, raising taxes doesn’t require courage. It requires a brief bout of insanity.

Gov. Dayton’s latest middle class tax increase is his latest attempt to punish the middle class. Gov. Dayton and the DFL should be ashamed of themselves for inflicting this much punishment on the middle class.

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Move MN’s motivation is laid out beautifully on their agenda webpage:

In order to address the challenges in our current transportation system, new funding must:

  1. Be comprehensive to address, roads, bridges, transit, and bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
  2. Equitably balance the transportation needs of Greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities metro area.
  3. Be a long-term, sustainable funding solution that is gimmick-free and dedicated only to fixing transportation.

First, Move MN is part of the DFL. It has an arm’s length relationship from the DFL only because it was first put together by Darin Broton, a DFL activist/operative. This is red flag city:

We are calling on the Minnesota Legislature to pass a comprehensive transportation funding solution in 2015 that requires additional transparency and efficiency for current resources.

Anytime people talk about comprehensive anything, I break into a cold sweat. That’s because comprehensive plans automatically contain things from lobbyists’ wish lists that the public doesn’t care about.

Here’s a radical thought. Let’s focus totally on fixing roads and bridges and expanding highways. As a motorist, that’s all I care about. If the Twin Cities wants trolley cars and light rail corridors, that’s their problem.

Here’s another radical thought. If the Twin Cities or other cities want to build “bike and pedestrian infrastructure”, let them pay for it. I’m betting that building “bike and pedestrian infrastructure” isn’t a priority with people. Cities that want those things can propose tax increases to their citizens to pay for those things.

The we’re-in-this-together sales pitch doesn’t work with me. If Minneapolis wants to spend $500,000 on 10 artistic drinking fountains, that’s their right. It isn’t their right to have taxpayers across the state help pay for those drinking fountains.

Next, let’s stop using inflated numbers to make it look like there’s a funding crisis:

In 2012, the Transportation Finance Advisory Committee projected we needed $250 million a year to “maintain” our state roads and bridges. Today, Gov. Dayton says we need $400 million. In 2012, TFAC projected we needed $210 million a year to build out the Twin Cities transit system. Today, Gov. Dayton says we need $280 million.

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a 50% increase in costs over 2 years. Actually, it’s a 47.8% increase but what’s 2.2% amongst friends, right?

Finally, let’s stop with the we-need-sustainable-funding-that’s-dedicated-only-to-fixing-transportation’ gimmick. Let’s start with this thought. Let’s fund only those things that are priorities. Fixing roads and bridges is a priority. Expanding highways is a priority. Building the Southwest Light Rail Transit project isn’t a priority. In fact, raising taxes to fund the building of the SWLRT is theft because it’s embroiled in a major dispute at the moment. The DFL can’t decide on the project’s path. Why should we pay for something that’s a total mess with no solution in sight?

Move MN’s motivation is clear. It’s just the DFL disguising itself while attempting to raise taxes to pay for things we don’t need. Here’s hoping Kurt Daudt and the House Republican majority continue telling the DFL’s lobbyists to take a hike…on their dime.

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Scott Brener’s op-ed in this morning’s St. Cloud Times introduces some important questions into the transportation debate at the state legislature. Here’s an example:

In 2012, the Transportation Finance Advisory Committee projected we needed $250 million a year to “maintain” our state roads and bridges. Today, Gov. Dayton says we need $400 million.

Gov. Dayton’s math is terrifying. What he’s saying is that the cost of maintaining Minnesota’s roads and bridges cost 60% more now than they did 2 years ago. High school math says that that’s a 30% increase per year.

That isn’t an estimate. That’s fiction. It’s insulting, too.

Here’s another piece of data that needs to be introduced into the transportation conversation:

In 2012, TFAC projected we needed $210 million a year to build out the Twin Cities transit system. Today, Gov. Dayton says we need $280 million.

That’s a 33% increase in 2 years. Forgive me if I’m skeptical of Gov. Dayton’s estimates. This is worthy of debating, too:

Someone must ask: Are other government services any less long term and in need of stable funding than transportation? If the answer is “no,” then why is it appropriate to fund, say, health care services with those dollars but not transportation? Thirty-three states use the general fund to supplement financing for state roads and bridges. This also could force everyone to redouble efforts to redesign the delivery of all state programs and services.

There’s nothing in the state constitution that prohibits using general funds on repairing roads and bridges. Neither is there anything in Minnesota state statutes that prohibits using general funds on repairing roads and bridges.

There is something, however, in the DFL’s DNA that prohibits them from using general funds to repair roads and bridges. The DFL is reflexively opposed to using general funds to repair roads and bridges because the DFL insists that general funds be spent to pay off their special interest allies.

Each session, the DFL enters with the mindset that they need to increase spending to pay off the environmental activists, the farmers, the nonprofits and the bureaucrats that form their political base. This isn’t about fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges. Move MN, Gov. Dayton and the DFL constantly talk about transportation. The DFL has consistently talked about raising the wholesale gas tax, the license plate fees and the metro sales tax. At this point, only the gas tax can be used for road and bridge repair projects.

Kurt Daudt has talked consistently about fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges. He’s ruled out funding the SWLRT. Period. Move MN’s agenda includes lower priority items:

Accessible Transit Statewide
Transit is important to every community in Minnesota. Move MN supports closing a sales tax loophole by dedicating all of the sales tax from leased vehicles to suburban highways and Greater Minnesota transit.

The Twin Cities metro’s sales tax would be increased by ¾ cent and extended to the seven county metro area. It would fund improved transit connections in the metro area, increasing transit service hours and coverage. Ten percent would be set aside for bike/walk connection planning and implementation.

In short, Move MN’s agenda isn’t rural Minnesota’s agenda. Hell, it isn’t event exurban Minnesota’s agenda.

Move MN’s agenda is the Twin Cities DFL’s agenda. The Twin Cities DFL’s agenda includes “bike/walk connection planning and implementation.” If that’s true, then they can take a hike on raising taxes.

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It’s clear from this article that DFL legislators are jumping aboard the Metrocrat DFL’s transportation package:

Range legislators and the governor recently addressed the issue in telephone interviews with the Mesabi Daily News.

“The gas tax is one if the most unpopular taxes there is,” said Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm. “But when we ask if people want roads and bridges fixed, 80 percent say yes … then an extra dime on the gas tax and 80 percent say no.”

Other Range legislators expressed support for raising Gov. Dayton’s transportation bill, too:

Rep. Jason Metsa, DFL-Virginia, has one of the biggest road/bridge projects scheduled in the state, the Highway 53 relocation venture that will require a new bridge spanning the Rouchleau Pit, that will require a lot of MnDOT dollars. “I support a gas tax increase. We have Highway 53 … and there are projects like that all over the state.”

Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, said he would back a gas tax increase if it is part of a “sweeping change” for funding roads and bridges. “A gas tax increase is no good for rural folks … but we also use a lot of roads,” Dill said. “We have serious problems and our job is to fix them. The longer we take, the shorter is the long-term.”

It’s worth noticing what these legislators didn’t say. They didn’t mention the other tax increases in Gov. Dayton’s and Move MN’s plans. It’s still possible that they support raising the other taxes and fees, too. It’s just that they weren’t mentioned in this article.

I predicted that the DFL would return to ask for another tax increase shortly after the DFL passed a gas tax increase in 2008. I said then that that bill raised taxes and fees that didn’t fix roads and bridges. I said then that too many of the tax increases were dedicated for transit projects that did nothing for fixing roads and bridges.

It isn’t surprising that the DFL is returning to raise the same taxes that they raised in 2008. It isn’t surprising that Gov. Dayton and the DFL is telling people that their transportation bill is to fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges.

The DFL said the same thing then that they’re saying now. This isn’t surprising. It’s just frustrating that Gov. Dayton and the DFL are attempting to raise taxes to pay for additional transit projects, aka DFL ribbon-cutting ceremonies, while telling Minnesotans that they’re just trying to fix outstate Minnesota’s roads and bridges.

All I’m hoping for is a little honest from the DFL. Apparently, that’s asking too much of the DFL.

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There’s no question that Gov. Dayton is a progressive. In 2010, he campaigned on the issue that Minnesota’s tax code wasn’t progressive enough. Immediately upon getting sworn in, he submitted a budget that raised income taxes. During the campaign, Gov. Dayton criticized Tom Horner’s cigarette tax for its regressivity. In 2013, Gov. Dayton signed a plethora of regressive taxes. This year, he’s pushing hard for another regressive tax increase that will hit the poor and the middle class harder than it’ll hit “the rich.”

When Republicans said no to raising taxes on the poor and the middle class, Gov. Dayton threw another temper tantrum:

Mark Drake, the new president of the Minnesota Jobs Coalition, noticed Gov. Dayton’s change of mind in this op-ed:

During a recent press conference in which he reiterated his support for a gasoline tax increase, Dayton mocked a GOP transportation proposal as “pure fantasy,” dismissing the plan’s funding mechanism as derived from “la la land” and “Fantasy Island.” Yet Dayton’s name-calling can’t change the fact that he’s long been an opponent of the very type of gas tax increase that he’s now pushing.

“I don’t support a gas tax increase at this time, because I think there’s not public support for it,” Dayton said in 2012. Dayton added that he opposed such a hike because “I don’t see it as providing nearly the amount of money necessary to make significant and really identifiable progress.”

“I don’t support a gas tax. I don’t think the people of Minnesota are prepared to support it and that’s the critical consideration,” Dayton assured Minnesotans in 2013. “If it’s going to raise more revenues than the current gas tax, then it’s going to result in higher fuel prices for middle-income Minnesotans. I think they’re not in a position economically to have that,” Dayton emphasized that same year. During his 2014 re-election campaign, Dayton again expressed opposition to a gas tax increase. “I have thought all along that this requires a long discussion in a non-election year,” Dayton stated.

It’s time for Gov. Dayton to stop with his flip-flopping. Gov. Dayton and the DFL didn’t promise to raise taxes during the campaign. In fact, they tried claiming that repealing their tax increase from 2013 was a tax cut. Gov. Dayton and the DFL promised voters property tax relief.

I wrote this post and this post to show that the DFL failed with that promise.

There’s no question that Gov. Dayton and the DFL prefer a progressive income tax system. Likewise, there’s no doubt that Gov. Dayton and the DFL like raising regressive taxes, too. Their record is littered with proof of the DFL voting for progressive and regressive taxes.

Tax the rich is the DFL’s mantra but tax everyone is what the DFL believes in. The DFL just isn’t honest enough to admit the latter in public.

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It didn’t take long for the DFL to define themselves on transportation:

Then there’s Gov. Dayton’s fallback position on everything:

“I say $6 billion and they say nothing?” a frustrated Dayton said last week during the press conference at which he made his “pure fantasy” remark about Republicans’ proposal. “This is not a beginning of a sensible conversation.”

Tax, tax, tax, tax, tax, tax, tax. That’s the DFL’s solution for everything. In 2013, they raised taxes and fees by $2,400,000,000. In 2014, they repealed some of the taxes they’d raised in 2013, then had the audacity to call it a tax cut. FYI- That didn’t fly with voters. They returned Republicans to the majority in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

With the 2015 session just a week old, the Senate DFL has proposed raising taxes to fund their transportation wish list. Let’s be clear about this. Republicans want to focus on fixing roads and bridges. The DFL wants to raises a plethora of taxes to repair roads and bridges, pay for trolley cars, fund transit expansion and pay for light rail projects.

Republicans a) don’t want to raise taxes and b) want to focus on roads and bridges. The DFL wants to raise the gas tax (even though it won’t fund the projects they’re proposing) to fix roads and bridges and increase license tabs and the metro sales tax to pay for transit projects.

In 2010, Mark Dayton criticized Tom Horner for pushing a cigarette tax increase, calling it a regressive tax. At the time, Gov. Dayton said Minnesota needed a more progressive tax system. Back then, Gov. Dayton said that he’d “tax the rich” but he’d cut taxes for the middle class.

There’s now a plethora of proof that Gov. Dayton lied. BIGTIME. The rich got hit alright. Unfortunately for the middle class and the working poor, they’ve gotten hit the hardest with the Dayton-DFL tax and fee increases.

Minnesota’s middle class and working poor can’t afford the DFL’s tax increases. They’re taxed too much already.

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Now that Gov. Dayton has thrown another of his temper tantrums, it’s time to let some of the DFL’s front organizations to step forward with wildly foolish proposals. This time, Move MN is the DFL front organization that’s proposing to raise taxes without thinking things through:

Senate Transportation Chairman Scott Dibble, D-Minneapolis, said he will release his plan in coming days, but unlike the GOP it is expected to include a transit component. It likely will include some form of a gasoline tax increase and a Twin Cities tax for transit.

Dibble said his plan will look a lot like one Dayton has sketched out and that transportation advocates in Move MN propose. The Move MN plan mixes a wholesale gasoline sales tax increase with higher vehicle license fees. Also included is an additional tax in the Twin Cities to fund transit needs there.

According to KSTP’s reporting Sunday, Move MN’s plan would raise taxes and fees by $8,500,000,000 over the next decade. That’s approximately $1,700,000,000 this biennium. That’s on top of the $2,400,000,000 increase in taxes and fees from the 2013 session. That might be the most frightening news of the article if not for this:

Estimates for transportation needs in the next 10 years range from $2 billion to $6 billion.

That’s frightening! I don’t want estimates on what Minnesota’s transportation needs for the next decade are. I want a detailed list of aging roads and bridges that need repair. I want that list prioritized by which roads and bridges are oldest, which roads and bridges that have the highest expected traffic over the next decade.

That ‘estimate’ sounds more like a lobbyist’s wish list than it sounds like a responsible list of high priority project that Minnesota needs. A responsible estimate would say Minnesota’s transportation needs are between $2,000,000,000 and $2,400,000,000. A reckless estimate, like the kind I expect from Gov. Dayton and the DFL, would estimate Minnesota’s transportation system needing between $2,000,000,000 and $6,000,000,000.

Then there’s Move MN’s estimate. Move MN’s estimate that Minnesota’s transportation system needs $8,500,000,000 is what I’d expect if I grabbed a pedestrian off the street, got him drunk, put him in a blindfold, then told him to throw darts to determine what Minnesota’s transportation system needs are. That’s likely to be just as accurate as Move MN’s estimate.

The Minnesota legislature is less than a week in and Gov. Dayton is already picking a fight with Republicans. The next time he picks a fight, he should know what he’s talking about. After reading this article, it’s apparent he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to transportation or economics:

Gov. Mark Dayton and transportation funding advocates say Minnesota can raise billions of dollars by adding a new tax to gasoline sales. But that tax could bring in less money than projected if the price at the pump stays at current low levels.

“The number on the revenue side of it does deserve additional scrutiny given the present price of gasoline,” Dayton said Friday. “If it stays at $2.25 a gallon for the next couple years, that revenue is going to be less.”

Minnesota already applies a 28.7-cent tax to every gallon of gasoline sold, a tax that’s the same whether that gallon costs $2, $4 or somewhere in between. But Dayton wants to raise more revenue by also applying a 6.5 percent sales tax to fuel sales. That tax would bring in different money per gallon depending on the price of gasoline: $0.13 per gallon with $2 gas, $0.21 per gallon with $3.25 gas, and $0.26 with $4 gas.

Dayton and advocacy group Move MN say they can raise $5.8 billion over 10 years by applying this sales tax to gasoline and also increasing license tab fees car owners pay every year. But Dayton said Friday that $5.8 billion figure was based on the assumption of $3.25 gasoline. That means the transportation package would bring in less than $5.8 billion if gas remained below $3.25. It could also bring in more than that if gas goes above $3.25.

Theoretically, Gov. Dayton is right. Theoretically, revenues will be greatest when prices are higher. Unfortunately for Gov. Dayton and his special interest allies, revenues aren’t collected in the theoretical realm. They’re collected in reality.

High gas prices mean more tax revenue per gallon sold — but also fewer gallons sold. Low gas prices mean the opposite situation.

Speaker Kurt Daudt put it best:

“We’ve taken money from Minnesotans to pay for those basics, we’ve spent too much of it on extras, and now we’re going to go back to Minnesotans and ask them for more money for basics?” House Speaker Kurt Daudt said Wednesday.

The DFL is famous for spending lots of money on things we don’t need. That’s because the DFL is famous for paying off their special interest allies with the taxpayers’ money. That won’t cut it with this GOP majority.

Republicans and other critics have opposed Dayton’s proposal to raise taxes on gasoline, saying the state should reprioritize spending from mass transit to roads and bridges first.

Let’s be blunt about this. Minnesota is spending too much money on transit, trolley cars and light rail. Minnesota isn’t spending enough on roads and bridges. Further, I’m highly skeptical of the experts’ prediction that we’ll need between $2,000,000,000 and $6,000,000,000 to fix roads and bridges in the next decade.

I want a detailed list of all the bridges 30 years or older that need repair in the next decade. Then I want a list of trunk highways that are old that’ll need repair in the next decade. Further, each of those lists should be prioritized based on the amount of traffic that they’re currently experiencing and based on the projected amount of traffic they’ll experience based on population growth.

It isn’t good enough to say ‘this bridge is old. Let’s fix it.’ If traffic is light, then it isn’t as high of a priority as if it’s a high traffic bridge. Gov. Dayton, the DFL and the transportation lobbyists need to learn that taxpayers aren’t their political ATMs. They can’t subject taxpayers to one tax increase after another.

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