Committee passes $6.1 million state transportation cut

An official said the money would help the state’s $160 million budget deficit.

by Britt Johnsen

The House Transportation Finance Committee passed a budget proposal Wednesday that would reduce state transportation financing by $6.1 million, an official said.

Becky Girvan, the House Transportation Finance Committee administrator, said the bill further reduces Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s proposed budget cuts.

The state transportation budget plan Pawlenty proposed would cut transportation finances by $1.7 million. Metropolitan Council Chairman Peter Bell said $1.4 million of that money would be Metro Transit reductions.

Girvan said the money would help the state’s $160 million budget deficit.

Amid a 22-day-old strike, officials are looking at different transportation funding options as the transit dispute continues.

The dispute is between Met Council, which oversees Metro Transit, and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005, which represents 2,150 Metro Transit employees. The main disagreement revolves around health care.

Bell said he is unsupportive of the House’s proposal and said he is confident the bill will not pass.

While budgets are being cut, a new bill introduced Monday asks to shift $12.9 million from the motor vehicle sales tax revenue spent on maintaining the Trunk Highway Fund to Metro Transit, said Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, who co-authored the bill.

“I think it provides a vehicle to both end the strike and replenish much-needed funds for metro transit,” Hornstein said.

But Bell said he is unsure the answer to the strike lies in more funding.

“Is it the best use of funds to restore the routes we cut last year or to maintain the benefit level that employee levels currently have?” he said.

“I think the union has to come to terms with the financial situation of the state and Metro Transit is in,” Bell said. “I think we will only have a

resolution to the strike when the union recognizes we’re broke.”

Meanwhile, the union remains firm on their stance and demands a fair contract, union president Ron Lloyd said.

“We’re going to be out here until we get a deal that is reasonable and fair for my members,” he said.