Transportation Amendment: cast an easy vote

The Transportation Amendment will be on your ballot Tuesday. To ensure funding dedicated to improving public transportation, vote yes.

Holly Lahd

The opinions page of the Daily has many different commentators telling you who and who not to vote for this election season. I’m going to make it even simpler than to tell you a name – just vote yes.

On every ballot in the state of Minnesota, voters will face a question of whether to amend the state constitution to ensure dedicated funding for transportation projects. To ease the congestion that will accompany our projected population growth, we need this dedicated funding to build smart transit options that reduce the need for polluting cars on our roads.

All Minnesotans rely on roads and transit options to get them from point A to point B every day. But we as college students are more heavily dependent on public transit options to take us to and from the University. All Minnesotans should vote yes for the amendment, but students especially have much to gain from a yes vote.

I don’t need to lecture you on why transit projects are necessary if we want to preserve our open spaces and reduce traffic congestions. By 2030, the metropolitan area is expected to grow by 30 percent, while the entire state is expected to add another 27 percent to its total population. Imagine the congestion with over another one million Minnesotans. While bus ridership is up in the metro, budget cuts have forced metro transit to reduce service on some routes in the past few years.

The amendment guarantees at least 300 million dollars devoted to transit projects by 2012, with the possibility of more. And the amendment does not constrict the Legislature from securing more money for transit and road projects in the future.

In 1981, the state Legislature created the Motor Vehicles Sales Tax, which people pay when they buy a vehicle. The tax was originally intended to go 100 percent towards Minnesota’s transportation needs. But today, only 54 percent of the tax goes to transit and other transportation needs. The current funding distribution does not address the needs of Minnesotans. What we need now is an amendment to rectify this misuse of the Motor Vehicle Sales Tax.

The language of the amendment states that transit would receive no less than 40 percent of the funds, with roads receiving no more than 60 percent. Select out-state Minnesota groups have criticized the amendment, saying it will only help the metro. But, in reality, the amendment will greatly increase the funding of transportation projects all over the state, from Minneapolis to Moorhead to Mankato. And although the funds will not go 100 percent towards public transit, it is still a big boost over current funding conditions. All without raising taxes.

The Minnesota Daily’s October 26th editorial titled “Transportation Amendment Misleads” said that critical funding needs like those for education would be hurt by diverting funds away from the general fund. That reasoning implies that the state’s income is stagnant and it is this-or-that funding need. From sheer growth of Minnesota’s income and spending, not increased taxes, the state acquires millions of more dollars in revenue each year. The Legislature can and should use these funds to finance important education and health care projects, but not at the expense of transit.

The Transportation Amendment will be phased in over a five-year period to reduce any drastic funding changes for programs. Even when it is fully phased in by 2012, it will make up less than 1 percent of the state’s budget. Yet, it will make a big difference for the transportation projects across the state.

The Daily’s editorial also criticized the coalition of over 1,000 organizations united in support of the amendment as a group that “stand(s) to profit immensely from the amendment.” This coalition of business, labor and environmental groups should be praised for their collaboration in finding legislation that all sides can support. Rather than just being a green issue or a business issue, this cause transcends these limited definitions. Yes, businesses will benefit from roads that are maintained better. But the truth is we all stand to profit immensely from the amendment because of the time we will save from traffic congestion with new transit projects.

With our population growing and traffic congestion increasing, it’s obvious that transit in Minnesota needs a renewed commitment. We have the opportunity to do this at the ballot box next Tuesday. The Transportation Amendment is not a silver bullet to Minnesota’s transportation problems, but it takes us in the right direction.

To be an educated voter, you need to understand this issue and vote a clear yes or no vote on it. I urge you to visit www.voteyesmn.org for more information on the amendment. Leaving the amendment question blank on the ballot counts as a no vote, so it’s imperative that all voters answer the question. Remember to vote “Yes.”

And, since this is my last column before the election, I also urge you to not vote for any candidate until you know his or her position on global warming and renewable energy. Candidates from all parties need to state where they stand on these important issues because the time of inaction on global warming needs to end Nov. 7.

Holly Lahd welcomes comments at [email protected]