40/60 amendment needs amending
Efforts are now under way in the newly-convened 2006 Minnesota legislative session to amend language for a proposed constitutional amendment setting aside Motor Vehicle Sales Tax money to transportation. We have said before, and we'll say again -...
Efforts are now under way in the newly-convened 2006 Minnesota legislative session to amend language for a proposed constitutional amendment setting aside Motor Vehicle Sales Tax money to transportation. We have said before, and we'll say again -- the amendment language guaranteeing at least 40 percent of MVST money to transit and no more than 60 percent to highways must be changed.
If the language is not changed, highway projects could conceivably be left out in the cold. There is nothing in the current amendment language that would prevent 100 percent of MVST money going to metro transit projects.
One plan is to guarantee exactly 40 percent for transit and exactly 60 percent for highways, with road dollars distributed through the Highway Users Tax Distribution Fund. Such a change would leave no room for doubt, with little opportunity to play politics.
It should not be an easy thing to change a state constitution, but transportation projects have gone unfunded for years because the Legislature cannot agree on a comprehensive plan. There is no reason to believe that will change in the near future, but a constitutional amendment will provide money where it is desperately needed.
A corrected 40/60 amendment still allows for decisions to be made as needs occur. Conceivably, it allows for more highway projects to be completed in rural Minnesota, where they've been delayed for years if not decades. But metro highways would be equally eligible for the funds; indeed, congestion issues in the Twin Cities area beg to be addressed, too. One study has indicated that it will cost $27 billion to address Twin Cities transportation needs over the next 20 years.
Correcting the flawed amendment language won't guarantee passage, and if it fails to pass, those pushing for the change might be blamed for its failure. But in its present form, it will face considerable opposition. It needs to be fixed now, or it shouldn't pass anyway.
Constitutional amendments last for generations. It's important that if we're going to change the constitution, we get it right.