From Kevin Lewis, Executive Director of BOMA Greater Minneapolis:
The 2016 Legislative Session concluded a few weeks ago and questions remain as to whether Governor Dayton will call a special session to address the myriad of unfinished business. There appeared to be a small victory in the tax bill concerning the Statewide C/I Property tax; however, the governor did not take any action thereby creating a so-called pocket veto as the $260 million measure expired. What was more troubling was the fact there was no common ground in the House or Senate on either side of the aisle regarding a funding package for roads and bridges and transit.
Last Tuesday, Representative Steve Drazkowski (R) from District 21B in the Mazeppa area met with BOMA’s Government Affairs Committee. He chairs the Property Tax and Local Government Finance Division and also serves on the Transportation Policy and Finance Committee. He is clearly supportive of our efforts to reduce and gradually phase out the Statewide C/I Property tax. However, he is firmly opposed to funding for the expansion of light rail. He cites the enormous build out costs and, more importantly, the anticipated ongoing operational subsidies that could make up approximately 65% of the total cost. He favors the continued utilization of buses and stated his constituents in district 21B have little or no use for mass transit.
A few months ago while a group of us were meeting with legislators during Business Day at the Capitol, we met with another key player, Senator David Osmek (R) from Mound, who is a member of the Transportation and Public Safety Budget Division. He asked us not to use the “R word” (referring to rail) when discussing transportation. You might be able to easily conclude his position on the funding of LRT.
Furthermore, in last Saturday’s Letter to the Editor section in the StarTribune, Mr. Fritz Knaak, an attorney and former senator, stated his opposition by calling it “Minneapolis-centric” bias in funding and “wasteful spending.”
There isn’t enough space in this column to review the plethora of suggested funding proposals by our legislators, none of which they can agree upon. To be clear, BOMA and our members fully support the continued expansion of our transit system as we look to meet an expanding and multigenerational workforce. We are falling behind our competition as cities such as Denver, Seattle and Dallas continue to grow their transit systems. BOMA stands firm on our commitment to persuade our state government to find a long-term, sustainable funding mechanism for transit.