Edina legislators share transportation concerns at town hall

 

During a town hall meeting in Edina, Minnesota legislators representing the city said they were disappointed in the failed attempts to reach an agreement on long-term transportation funding. Transportation was one of several issues discussed during a June 25 town hall meeting at Edina City Hall.

Despite a general fund budget surplus, there was disagreement between Democratic leadership, Republican leadership and Gov. Mark Dayton regarding transportation funding. Republican House leadership called for the use of general fund surplus, while Senate Democrats called for a gas tax and a metro-area sales tax.

Dedicated, long-term transportation funding did not make it into the end-of-session negotiations with party leadership or Gov. Dayton, nor was it addressed during the special session.

“I came into this session always very hopeful,” said Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Bloomington-Edina. “… This session to me was very disappointing. Transportation was the number one issue that people were talking about. Education and transportation. And we failed, basically. And it’s unfortunate. Who’s to say what happened?”

When an audience member asked about prospects for transportation funding in the future, legislators Rosenthal, Sen. Melisa Franzen, D-Edina, and Rep. Ron Erhardt, D-Edina, were not too confident about any decision being made during the next legislative session, which falls in an election year.

“Whether not we can reach an agreement in 2016 with the same cast of characters, I don’t know,” Erhardt said.

Erhardt also mentioned his attempt to bridge the Republican-Democrat division over transit funding sources. In March he proposed a bill that would use Republican and Democrat ideas. He called for re-appropriating some general fund revenue sources to transportation, as Republicans wished, and using a gas tax as Democrats wanted.

“So we have a system – a proposal that neither side would like, and that’s sometimes the way you get things done,” Erhardt said.

However, that proposal failed to move ahead. The session ended without any state-wide, long-term transportation funding.

“I’m not as hopeful, but I’m kind of more pragmatic,” said Franzen, who sits on a House transportation committee and who traveled the state to hear testimony from local governments and residents.

If the Legislature did not act when Democrats had the majority of the House and Senate, and they did not act this session, Franzen questioned the impetus for acting next session.

“Next year is an election year – who wants to do something that is going to potentially raise taxes?” she asked.

She guessed the only transportation deal may occur if some sort of return for taxpayers is attached to it.

Rosenthal was a little more hopeful.

“If we don’t address it next session, you know, we’re losing money,” Rosenthal said. “We’re losing businesses. We have families standing in cars, on roads, going no where, waiting in traffic. So quality of life just goes down, so it’s something we need to address.”

Contact Paul Groessel at [email protected] or follow the Sun Current on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent.