Friday, May 25, 2007

Falling Behind in MN

The Star Tribune editorial page nails Governor Pawlenty and the MN Chamber of Commerce for our sorry transportation system:

The transportation bill got 137 votes in the Legislature this session. That's a solid 70 percent majority and, if you believe in representative government, pretty good evidence that Minnesotans are willing to pay for fixing their crumbling roads and expanding their skimpy transit systems.

But Tim Pawlenty isn't willing. And so, for the second time in three years, a veto, wielded by a governor who has never been elected by a majority of Minnesotans, has prevented substantial progress against the state's most gnawing problem: the 20-year failure to adequately build and maintain its transportation system...

Pawlenty will be blamed for leaving Minnesota behind on all of these fronts. He has placed ideology and national political ambition ahead of his state's best interest.

Rather than raise the taxes and fees required to face head-on the annual $1.7 billion transportation shortfall, the governor has stuck to his incrementalist policy: Borrow about one-tenth of that amount, force our children to pay it back and nibble away at the edges. That's like attacking an iceberg with an icepick.

Business is also to blame. While the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce supported a nickel gas tax increase for roads, it opposed giving counties the authority to raise sales taxes for transit, the financial tool that has allowed other markets to push far ahead of the Twin Cities. It's a mystery why a sales tax for transit can be acceptable to business leaders in Denver, Dallas, Phoenix and San Diego, but not here. All of those cities have considerably higher rates than Minneapolis-St. Paul yet seem to be flourishing.

Yep. This is a perfect example of the blinding force of ideology, in this case the ideology of "no new taxes." Being willing to pay for an adequate transportation infrastructure ought to be a no-brainer for pro-business people. Our transportation system is crippling businesses and slowing job growth. But they can't bring themselves to give up on their ideology. Meanwhile Republican business and political leaders in metropolitan areas with similar sizes have long since chosen jobs and economic growth over ideology.

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