Column: Thissen’s next long-term transportation funding solution will be his first

By District 21A Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing RED WING -- State Representative Paul Thissen's recent letter bemoaning the fact that Minnesota House Republicans have a reliable, long-term road and bridge funding plan that addresses our state's transp...

By District 21A Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing

RED WING - State Representative Paul Thissen’s recent letter bemoaning the fact that Minnesota House Republicans have a reliable, long-term road and bridge funding plan that addresses our state’s transportation woes over the next 10 years without raising taxes needs a response.
I’m sure as the Minority Leader penned his letter from his illustrious office inside a Minneapolis skyscraper, he assumed his mudslinging and notable lack of a transportation plan might actually resonate with southwestern Minnesotans.
Luckily, folks in Worthington and the surrounding area can easily spot a sad attempt at partisan rhetoric with absolutely no substance.
First, Thissen gave us the tried-and-true DFL tactic of moving the goalposts.
Last session, the House and Senate worked to determine Minnesota’s true financial need for transportation. Based on a non-partisan, independent analysis of Minnesota’s Transportation Finance Advisory Committee findings- which found the real need to rest somewhere between $3 billion to $8 billion - the House approved a proposal that invests $7 billion into transportation over the next decade without raising taxes.
Months later, the transportation department attempted to rewrite the record by presenting a 20-year Minnesota State Highway Investment Plan that suggests the gap is now $16 billion. This was great news for one-sided politicos who welcome a moving target in order to distract from legitimate legislative progress.
Thissen’s reaction to the small cities transportation funding program is also head-scratching. This plan, which assists towns with less than 5,000 residents with street needs, never existed until Republicans brought the idea forward this year.
Ironically, Representative Thissen tried taking credit for the program in this newspaper a month ago, saying House Democrats are “emphasizing a program for money for small cities under 5,000.” Yet later in the Daily Globe, he criticized the revenue put into the program.
You can’t have it both ways, particularly if you don’t have a long-term transportation plan, and have never had one.
To quote Thissen directly: “Our task at the legislature is to pass a comprehensive transportation solution that truly fixes the problem long-term, and works in every corner of the state.”
Two years ago, Thissen served as Minnesota House Speaker. At that time, the House, Senate and Governor’s Office were all controlled by Democrats. As one of the most powerful people in state government at the time, Thissen had the ability to do whatever he wanted.
Do you recall Thissen’s “comprehensive transportation solution that truly fixes the problem long-term” from two years ago? Me either, because it didn’t exist.
If Thissen truly prioritized our road and bridge needs, he had the power to make it happen. He could have raised gas taxes five cents, 16 cents, even 50 cents a gallon, and Republicans would have been powerless to stop it. We may not have liked their solution, but with full control of state government Democrats had the opportunity to eliminate this problem by themselves and we would not be discussing the issue today.
But what did they do? They took a knee. They watched a called third strike. Democrats didn’t even try to address the long-term transportation problem, and in doing so, they failed Minnesotans.
So it’s no surprise that in his Daily Globe rant Thissen still didn’t offer a solution; just harsh criticism of a Republican plan that will actually fix roads and bridges in Greater Minnesota without raising your taxes.
When it comes to finding answers to long-term transportation funding, Paul Thissen has zero credibility.
I firmly believe a House/Senate compromise will be reached this session. Senate Transportation Chairman Scott Dibble and I have already begun the work and are both optimistic about the completion of a comprehensive plan. But, once again, I’m expecting no help from Thissen because his history on transportation suggests he favors detours and roadblocks over workable solutions.
I’ve always lived by the credo “don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions.” In spite of Thissen’s desire to only bring problems, we will be successful in addressing our transportation needs.

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