Significant attention has been placed on Southwest light rail for failed special-session talks that left taxes, bonding and transportation in the lurch. The real stumbling block was the Minnesota House’s radical opposition to local control and public transit.
The Twin Cities metro region is projected to grow by 750,000 people by 2040; congestion delays are worsening; transit ridership is growing. And yet, not once this year did the Minnesota House publicly propose or agree to sustainable funding that would expand metro-area transit.
In contrast, Gov. Mark Dayton and the Senate proposed a metro-only sales tax to pay for the metro region’s expansion of light rail, bus service, and safe bicycling and walking routes. This sales tax was part of a statewide plan that also provided long-term funding for roads, bridges and Greater Minnesota transit. A later proposal went even further to compromise on Southwest. It gave Hennepin County the option to pay the final $135 million needed to secure more than $900 million in federal funds.
How much state money was at stake in the debate over Southwest light-rail funding? Essentially zero.
These proposals were rejected by the House majority leadership. Ultimately, Speaker Kurt Daudt doubled down on an anti-transit agenda, rather than supporting transportation investments that would serve all Minnesotans.