Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I think it is always good to de-mythize certain untruths. Especially at the beginnings of the month. I found these on The Transportation Alliance website:

The Top Ten Transportation Myths

1. Gas tax revenue goes into the General Fund and is used for all sorts of things besides highway projects.

The Truth: Revenue from the state's gas tax is constitutionally dedicated to the Highway Trust Fund and must be used for "highway purposes."

2. Money from an increase in the gas tax will be drained away by expensive passenger rail projects.

The Truth: Gas tax money cannot be used for transit (See number 1). Also, passenger rail projects are not any more expensive than highway projects in the metropolitan area.

3. An increase in the gas tax will pose an undue burden on residents.

The Truth: A 5 cent increase in the gas tax will cost the average drive $40 to $45 per year - less than one evening on the town or tickets to a major sporting event. And an increase of 5 cents would generate over $150 million each year for needed highway projects. The gas tax has not been increased since 1988 and our 20 cent gas tax is now only worth about 13 cents in purchasing power due to inflation.

4. The Department of Transportation can't spend any more money.

The Truth: Mn/DOT, counties and cities have a backlog of highway projects planned for the next 10-20 years that could be moved up with more revenue. It takes some time to get these projects going in a department that has been starved for funding and hasn't been able to maintain the staff for huge construction programs. That's exactly why we need stable funding sources like the gas tax.

5. Minnesota doesn't have a congestion problem, what's the big deal?

The Truth: According to the Texas Transportation Institute, the growth in congestion in the Twin Cities Metropolitan area is second only to Atlanta. The time and fuel we waste stuck in traffic costs each of us over $600 per year. That's the "congestion tax" we're currently paying.

6. No one wants to use transit.

The Truth: Transit systems are struggling to meet demand. Park-and-Ride lots are overflowing in the metropolitan are and bus systems in Greater Minnesota don't have the resources to serve everyone who needs bus service. In fact, 16 counties in Minnesota don't have bus service throughout the county and 6 counties have no public transit service at all. In 2000, Minnesota's public transit systems provided about 89 million rides.

7. The public doesn't support increased spending for transportation.

The Truth: Poll after poll shows that the public wants something done to alleviate congestion and improve highway safety.

8. Business interests don't support increased funding for transportation.

The Truth: Business owners are particularly concerned about congestion. Businesses lose money when workers and goods are stuck in traffic. This year, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce organized a transportation coalition that supported a 5 cent increase in the state's gas tax to fund needed highway improvements as well as additional funding for transit to get workers to their jobs.

9. All of the revenue from the sales tax on motor vehicles goes to fund the transportation system.

The Truth: While there have been attempts to dedicate the sales tax from motor vehicles to transportation, historically this sales tax has been treated like all other sales taxes with the revenue deposited in the general fund. This changed a few years ago when the Governor cut license tab fees and used a portion of the money from the sales tax on motor vehicles to make up for a cut in funding to the Highway Trust Fund. Dedicating all of the money from this sales tax to transportation is one of the options the legislature should seriously consider.

10. 2002 wasn't the year to deal with a transportation funding package, we'll do it next year.

The Truth: We've heard that line for about 14 years! The last time the gas tax was increased was 1988. The fact is, the legislature and the Governor failed to address a critical state issue. Voters should hold them accountable for their inability to deal with this problem when they go to the polls in November. Mobility isn't something we can afford to wait for. Our economy depends on it.

it has been rather apparent that Pawlenty and even Ventura could have gone even further in finding decent and stable revenue for MNDOT. At least Minnesota Voters Can Dedicate Funds to Transit - in a November 2006 statewide referendum. I am rather confident it will pass - even though Pawlenty vetoed it. Of course I will be vetoing him as well this fall - though I cannot say that he won't win ( especially if the DFL picks someone lame to run again).

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