Monday vote for new transit finance package

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Metro Light Rail
A light rail train pulls into the Target Field station as a commuter walks by Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012.
Alex Kolyer for MPR

The Minnesota House Transportation Finance Committee is expected to vote Monday on a transportation spending bill that would allow all counties to impose a half-cent sales tax and a $10 annual vehicle registration fee to pay for infrastructure improvements.

The House bill, and a companion bill in the Senate, do not include an anticipated increase in a transit-dedicated sales tax to pay for more mass transit in the metro.

Both houses scrapped that plan after Gov. Dayton expressed opposition to a gas tax increase.

Minneapolis DFL Rep. Frank Hornstein, who chairs the Transportation Finance Committee, says instead, his bill would allow all counties to impose a half-cent sales tax and a $10 annual vehicle registration fee to pay for infrastructure improvements.

"We are still looking at options and there are still options on the table and we have five more weeks left in the session so I think people ought to stay tuned but at this point it's difficult without the gas tax to look at a comprehensive formula here," he said.

Hornstein is still hoping for more money to help fund new transit projects.

Rep. Mike Beard, of Shakopee, the top Republican on the committee, says he's skeptical that the metro needs a build-out of new transit lines.

"The problem we have is spending copious amounts of money on building entirely new transitways that serve very few people and serve them on a fixed route on a fixed schedule when we think we could probably take those dollars and invest them in a highway expansion or a bridge reenhancement that benefits everybody all the time and any time," he said.

Democratic House and Senate leaders say they are still optimistic about finding more money to help fund new transit projects.

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