The Senate passed a transportation finance bill that includes no significant new revenue by a 43-24 vote on Sunday evening. The bill already cleared the House and is now headed for a signature by Gov. Mark Dayton.
The transportation bill followed a tortuous path to the floor. A nickel increase in the gas tax and a half-cent boost in the sales tax in the seven county metro area were taken on and off the table multiple times. Ultimately they were not included in the package, in part because of Dayton’s opposition to a gas tax hike.
Sen. Scott Dibble, chair of the Transportation and Public Safety Committee, acknowledged that he would have preferred a more robust bill. “It’s been an interesting journey we’ve had,” Dibble said during the floor debate. “I’m surprised we’re ending up in this spot, quite frankly.”
The bill does include $300 million in trunk highway bonding to expedite road construction. That proposal was brought forth by Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle during the conference committee.
Republican criticism focused on $55 million in the bill to pay for light rail transit operations. “We don’t need to do this. We have a great bus service,” said Sen. David Osmek, R-Mound. “Rather than continuing down this path, this is the time to say stop.”
Four Republicans — Sens. Julie Rosen (Fairmont), Gary Dahms (Redwood Falls), John Pederson (St. Cloud) and Dave Senjem (Rochester) — joined all DFLers in voting for the bill.