Friends and neighbors –
I write this on the morning of Monday, May 22nd. The legislature is required to adjourn tonight at midnight, and there is still quite a bit of work left for Democrats to do.
I wish I could say that there is work left for us to do. But the truth is that, try as we might, Democrats have shown no interest in working together on any of the major issues.
We have offered good amendments to improve their bills; they have rejected them or deleted them in conference committee. We have made numerous offers to help us bridge some of the divides we face; we have been told ‘no’ every single time. We have asked for an inclusive, transparent process that involves the public; Democrats have reached agreements on major budget bills behind closed doors with no public participation. Frankly, it does a disservice to Minnesotans.
Funding Secured for Highway 8 Project
I am thrilled that Highway 8 is getting funding! It is one of the most dangerous roads in Minnesota and is long overdue. With $50 million allocated this session, final planning and re-construction can begin. The current 2-lane highway, stretching from I-35 in Forest Lake to Chisago City, will become a much safer 4-lane highway in the near future.
Unfortunately, virtually every other part of the Transportation Bill is completely unacceptable. We have a $19 billion surplus. Why on earth are we even talking about tax increases? A gas tax tied to inflation, a new fee on deliveries, hiking tab fees, and increasing the cost of buying a new vehicle – these are all going to cause serious financial pain to every Minnesotan, but especially low-income families and people living paycheck to paycheck. We have plenty of money to fix our roads and bridges throughout the state; tax increases should be off the table.
Despite the numerous tax increases, Senate Republicans successfully added several critical priorities to the bill:
- $42 million for Highway 8 in Chisago County
- Dedicated road funding for small cities and townships
- $18 million more for local road improvements program
- $18 million more for local bridges
- $153 million in one-time funding for Corridors of Commerce
- $200 million from Trunk Highway Bonds in one-time funding for state road construction
- Allowing for a portion of driver’s education to be conducted online
- Additional funding for deputy registrars
OTHER CONTROVERSIAL PROVISIONS IN THE BILL
- Nearly $200 million to build the Northern Lights Express passenger rail between the Twin Cities and Duluth
- $50 million for the Blue Line rail to northwest suburbs
- A requirement to consider greenhouse gas emissions in transportation projects, which will make it almost impossible for new road projects to be built
- $976,000 per biennium in ongoing funding for “intercity passenger rail planning and project management”
- A study to expand the Northstar line to St. Cloud or even Fargo/Moorhead
- A working group to consider having traffic signals prioritize light rail and buses
- Deletes the ban on state money going to Southwest Light Rail operations and maintenance
City of Braham Receives Funding for Water Infrastructure
Braham has grown in both residents and businesses but their growth is overwhelming the already outdated infrastructure.
With $10.2 million awarded in funding, the City of Braham will be able to provide 21st Century standards to their residents with clean drinking water and an appropriate water treatment facility.
- Crumbling clay tile in the wastewater collection system will be replaced
- A new system will provide increased flow capacity to accommodate the high water table and watersheds flowing into two major rivers
- Old cast iron water mains with lead fittings from 1939 will be replaced to provide clean drinking water
- Labor costs will be reduced through modern automation and less water main/sewer breaks
- The city’s backup well will be improved with the appropriate pumps able to provide the correct water pressure to homes and fire hydrants
Braham has never sought out state funding for projects and this much needed update would have put an enormous tax burden on a small town. The funds approved for this project puts the city one step closer to providing clean drinking water for years to come.
I love hearing your feedback. It helps me serve you to the best of my ability. If you have any questions about any issues we are working on at the legislature, feel free to contact me any time at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-296-5155.
And you can always get the latest news from St. Paul on my Facebook page at /MarkKoranforSenate.
It is a privilege to serve you!