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There THEY Go Again

October 01, 2008 By Conrad deFiebre, Transportation Fellow
 
So many lies and half-truths, and so little time.

The Merry Pranksters of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota and the Minnesota Free Market Institute are at it again, this time with a direct assault on both Minnesota 2020 and the facts.

They've already inflated what the November ballot's proposed state constitutional amendment would raise in sales taxes over 25 years for water, land and the arts -- from an actual $6.9 billion to an $11 BILLION TAX INCREASE!!! And they lied about bus and light-rail fares and subsidies to argue that transit riders pay too little of the operating costs; in fact, Metro Transit's fare box recovery is among the nation's strongest.

Now it's getting personal. In a web posting last week, Taxpayers League President Phil Krinkie wrote that MN2020 Chairman Matt Entenza "and his liberal cronies" want the state to spend an additional $2 billion a year on roads and bridges. That should earn Krinkie the moniker Dr. No Clue.

Yes, Entenza and I both cited the $2 billion figure at a recent news conference in front of crumbling freeway bridge piers. But which "liberal cronies" did that number come from? None other the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which says that is the annual funding shortfall for trunk highways through 2014.

What would that money buy? Bridges that don't fall down, freeways unclogged by traffic, road surfaces that leave your car's suspension intact.

At Minnesota 2020, we think those are worthy goals. But we're also political and fiscal realists. Minnesota won't be raising another $2 billion a year in taxes for one-tenth of its road system anytime soon, and we have never advocated for that. We have simply reported the need as calculated by a state agency under the control of Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

That need shouldn't be ignored. Unless we acknowledge it, we'll never address it, with consequences that can be deadly. But it's taken a long time for Minnesota to dig itself into a hole on transportation funding, and it will take a long time to dig out.

The Legislature's override this year of Pawlenty's third transportation bill veto was a good start in that direction: an additional $650 million a year for state and local roads and bridges and Twin Cities-based transit funding. In the coming years, more will be needed.

It will happen if our state leaders don't overreach the public's ability to pay and the advocates of stagnation don't overreach the facts.



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