The Free Press, Mankato, MN


May 4, 2014

Our View: Remove road funding roadblocks

Why it matters: Barriers to badly needed road funding remain mostly political

When MnDOT announced it saved $50 million on a couple of projects this week and would continue its efficiency efforts, there was a reasonable expectation that the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce might reconsider its intransigence to badly needed road funding that would benefit its member businesses.

The chamber tweeted its congratulations to MnDOT on its efforts. But the group continues to oppose infrastructure investment that bipartisan groups endorse far and wide. Even other chambers around the state are not standing in line with the Minnesota Chamber on this.

We often wonder why the chamber has so much political power. Even Gov. Mark Dayton, who the group openly tried to defeat in his first election, seems to bow to their pressure. Democratic leaders seem to follow suit, with many rejecting revenue proposals unless the chamber is on board.

The chamber says it opposes more transportation revenue until MnDOT is more efficient and saves money it already has been allocated.

Chamber Senior Vice President for Advocacy Laura Bordelon told Star Tribune columnist Lori Sturdevant that the chamber opposes road funding because “there’s money flowing” via gas tax, wheelage taxes and a spigot of untapped, apparently unending federal money. That doesn’t seem to figure into MnDOT assessment that they are $18 billion to $20 billion short over the next 20 or so years.

Bordelon also told the Star Tribune MnDOT should be “stretching the funds they’ve got” and working toward “greater efficiency.”

MnDOT’s recent savings seem to be addressing at least some of the chamber’s suggested needs for efficiencies. MnDOT said it found $50 million in savings from two projects already planned and underway, the St. Croix and Red Wing bridge projects.

But a statement from Chamber spokesman Jim Pumarlo, sent to The Free Press Wednesday, stated: “We remain firm that MnDOT and the Metropolitan Council focus first on efficiencies before committing more money. We are not supporting any increase in gas tax or other transportation revenues this year.”

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