density&diversity: The MVST Amendment

The best hope for transit in the short term, at least according to Rep. Alice Hausmann (DFL - St. Paul), is the proposed Motor Vehincle Sales Tax (MVST) amendment that will be on the ballot this fall. It's the only remnant of the 10-cent gas tax transportation bill that survived Governor Pawlenty's veto last summer . . . and even that was through a kindof loophole whereby constitutional amendments cannot be vetoed by the governor if they pass both state houses. The issue is that the $180 million annual MVST pot would be split at least 60/40 for roads vs. transit. That amount of money would be a big boon for transit funding, and would represent part of the "dedicated source of funding" transit supporters have long sought.

Transit supporters did a little jig when the Governor came out in favor of the amendment earlier this year, boosting the chances for passage.

But last Thursday, Congressional candidate (and diehard libertarian) Rep. Phil Krinkie (R - Lino Lakes) dramatically pushed an amendment through the Taxes committe that would reduce the amount of transit money down to 20% of the MVST pot. Knowing the difficulties of new road construction in the metro area, such a proposal would do little to prepare the TC for the transportion future.

Meanwhile, a senate committe recently proposed a middle ground strategy, which would set in stone the 60/40 split for transit, but not allowing the transit portion to exceed this threshold. Here's the Strib article:
At stake is $180 million a year in motor vehicle sales taxes that now go to nontransportation purposes. Under the current amendment wording, at least 40 percent of the money would go to transit and no more than 60 percent to roads.

Suburban and rural legislators complain that that could funnel all the money to transit and none to roads. Urban legislators oppose any change, saying that highways already have two dedicated sources of funding -- gasoline taxes and vehicle registration fees -- while transit has none.

Those regional divisions were evident in an 11-5 vote of the Transportation Committee that advanced the bill sponsored by Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, to the Rules Committee. Skoe said that without the change, outstate and suburban voters might defeat the amendment at the polls.

The senate proposal is fairly non-controversial, as most transit supporters would be quite happy with a guaranteed 40% of the MVST money. The real question is whether or not outstate voters would vote for the MVST amendment as it currently sits. My gut informs me that most people would support it, but a great deal depends on how hard the Governor pushes skeptical Republican voters. (For consititutional amendments, any non-vote counts as a "No" vote, so they have a particuarly high hurdle to jump.)


The House Taxes committee meeting actually makes for some good watching, as he spars with Rep. Erhardt (R - Edina), the chief sponsor of the original bill. You can find it here (just click on Thursday 3/16/06), and the Krinkie amendment comes up at about 1:25:00 in on the tape.


kk said...

Unrelated to your post, but I thought you might be interested in this session today being done by Center for TOD.

I went to the morning session and while I didn't get a lot of new information out of it, it was interesting nonetheless. It hasn't been publicized a lot-- not sure why. I only found out because a few people emailed me about it.

Andrew said...

I got the email for that too as well KK, however, I am unable to attend because of classes at the U. A part of me wishes that Phil Krinkie would just go away and let the Twin Cites move into the 21st Century. I am going to cut my self short as to avoid a rant :)