Dist. 22A Rep. Doug Magnus has an interesting editorial in the Worthington Daily Globe. The editorial is titled “Speakerâ€™s handling of MnDOT issues a ‘tap dance'”.
I found House Speaker Margaret Kelliherâ€™s recent transportation letter to be quite interesting, especially since she continues to tap dance around the reasons why she has become a transportation roadblock.
Kelliher doesnâ€™t want the Legislatureâ€™s Transportation Contingency Appropriations Group (TCAG), an eight-member group she co-chairs, to authorize MnDOT to spend nearly $200 million in federal funds that was sent from Congress following the I-35W bridge collapse. This is after she reneged on a December agreement saying she would call a January meeting to review MnDOTâ€™s financial status.
Weâ€™re now in February, and MnDOTâ€™s still waiting for the authorization to spend $200 million of additional federal transportation funds. That means $55 million in construction projects across the state will soon be delayed. Kelliher says decisions by an eight-member committee of lawmakers should be reserved for emergencies.
The $200 million that arrived from Congress comes from a fund called the â€œEmergency Relief Program.â€ Donâ€™t you think a funding decision regarding the collapse of a bridge carrying 141,000 vehicles a day qualifies as an emergency?
Further, House File 562 created the TCAG. With Kelliherâ€™s vote, the bill passed the House 95-39 â€” I opposed it â€” and it passed unanimously in the Senate with 65 votes. Thatâ€™s 160 of 201 lawmakers, or 80 percent, that wanted this group to handle unanticipated appropriations.
So if we donâ€™t view bridge collapse funding as an emergency, then why was this group ever created and why did Kelliher support it?
We’ve known about this logjam for awhile now. What’s apparent is that the DFL is trying to not release the I-35 money until Gov. Pawlenty signs off on the huge tax increases in Sen. Murphy’s Transportation Bill. I’m saying that it’s apparent because TCAG could’ve released this money the instant it hit that account. I suspect that the DFL will be forced to appropriate the money the minute the public catches wind of this.
That isn’t the only bone that Rep. Magnus has to pick with Ms. Kelliher:
The Speaker mentions a transportation bill is coming. Where is it?
Iâ€™m the Republican Lead on the House Transportation Finance Division, and I havenâ€™t seen or been asked to offer suggestions on how to make this yearâ€™s bill better â€” or more likely to be signed into law.
Iâ€™d welcome the opportunity to negotiate and put together a transportation bill that truly is good for all of Minnesota. I previously authored a comprehensive transportation funding bill that was supported by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. That project specific bill included funding for Highway 60. Kelliher seems to know about Highway 60 issues; Iâ€™d be interested to see if her secret, no-negotiations-necessary bill addresses this need.
â€œThere is clearly middle ground on transportation that would move things forward but the DFL leadership has indicated that they will not go there.â€
I’d tell Rep. Magnus not to hold his breath waiting for an invitation to negotiate a truly bipartisan transportation bill but I’m sure he already knows better than to get his expectations of bipartisan cooperation up. Last night, I told King that the DFL appears to be taking a ‘My way or no highways’ approach to transportation. I’d love to be proven wrong on that but I’m not holding my breath on that either.
It’s time for the DFL to stop playing politics with the emergency funds that the feds appropriated for the I-35W bridge collapse.
In the aftermath of the collapse, Amy Klobuchar said that “A bridge in America just shouldn’t fall down.” Alot of people agreed with that statement.
I wonder how many voters agree that politicians shouldn’t play political games with disaster relief funds. That’s exactly what the DFL-dominated TCAG is doing under the ‘leadership’ of Speaker Kelliher.