Jul 30, 2014

How Should Southwest LRT Be Funded?

With several proposals before the Legislature, Patch wants to know what ideas, if any, you favor.

Last legislative session, the big question about Southwest Light Rail Transit was whether there was enough political will to fund the project. The tables appear to have turned this year, though. With at least three funding proposals floating around, the focus has lately been more on how to fund it than whether it deserves any money.

Edina Sen. Melisa Franzen (DFL-District 49) introduced Senate File 257 and Senate File 258, which would provide $118 million and $37 million, respectively, in bonding money for the 15-mile light rail project.

Watch Franzen explain her bills in the YouTube video above.

Gov. Mark Dayton, on the other hand, has proposed a quarter-cent sales tax increase that would set up a dedicated revenue stream for transit—some of which would likely going toward the Southwest project.

The competing proposals have forced transit legislators to take a hard look at the best path forward. On Friday, Minnetonka Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-District 44) told Finance & Commerce that bonding is the best option because sales taxes are more appropriate for immediate needs, not long-term investments. (Bonoff added that she doesn’t think the state should bond for the full $118 million that remains of the state share because she doesn’t think it makes sense to borrow money until it’s needed.)

However, fans of Dayton’s transit tax increase like that it creates a dedicated funding stream for transit and remove it from the hands of the Legislature—where it’s sparked intense debate and faced repeated setbacks.

Patch wants to know how you think Southwest LRT should be funded. Are you willing to pay a higher transit tax? Do you think the state should borrow the money? Is Southwest LRT even worth funding? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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