Battle enjoined over 40-60 amendment
WORTHINGTON -- Score Round One for the 40-60 crowd.
But the battle isn't over yet, said District 22B Rep. Rod Hamilton Thursday.
The effort to amend the language on a proposed constitutional amendment that would dedicate at least 40 percent of motor vehicle sales tax collections to transit needs -- with no more than 60 percent going to highways -- received a blow this week when Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Raschke Jr. said the amendment cannot be changed. Many state legislators, especially those representing rural districts, want the amendment's language to guarantee at least 60 percent of funding be set aside for highway projects.
Under the current language, they argue, highways could conceivably wind up with nothing.
Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, said it's difficult to predict how the amendment will be presented on the Nov. 7 ballot.
"Actually, how that's all going to shake out is anybody's guess at this point," he said. "I personally feel there is support in the House to change the language."
Hamilton believes the issue will appear again within the next two weeks. He pointed to an amendment of an environmental bill offered by Rep. Phil Krinkie, R-Lino Lakes, which would dedicate 80 percent to roads and 20 percent to transit. The amendment is likely to be brought back as a discussion item on the House floor, Hamilton said.
Rural legislators, the first-term Republican said, favor an 80-20 split.
"It dedicates 80 percent to roads, and it's a solid 80 percent, too," Hamilton explained. "It's not as vague (as 40-60). When it comes back, the urban and metro legislators are going to say they need more money for transit. Even if it goes back to 60 percent for roads, it will make me more comfortable so long as it's a solid 60 percent."
Hamilton said he's somewhat confused as to why legislators are putting so much stock in legal counsel as they discuss making and amending laws.
"The legislators make the laws. Why are we letting attorneys tell us what to do?" he asked.
Hamilton also commented on a statement made by Rep. Bernie Lieder, DFL-Crookston, who chided the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities -- which is pushing changing the 40-60 amendment -- for jeopardizing passage of the amendment. Hamilton said Lieder makes a valid point that by changing the language, voters might become confused. But Hamilton isn't convinced it's wise policy to allow the amendment to go forward in its present vague form, then simply trusting that the Legislature will do right by rural Minnesota with regard to highways.
"I'm a little skeptical," he said. "I say if we do it, let's do it right the first time."