Budget Bites: House plan derails transit, Senate proposes lesser cuts

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[Editor’s note: In an effort to help inform our members about state and federal budget issues, Minnesota Environmental Partnership is working with the Minnesota Budget Project to cross-post updates about the budget.]

Transit is a basic public service, getting people to and from work and school, and reducing congestion and pollution. Public transit helps the downtown office commuter avoid rush-hour headaches and high parking fees, but it is particularly important for those who either can’t afford a car or who can’t drive.

The House (House File 1140) and Senate (Senate File 898) propose significant cuts to transportation. The Senate cuts general fund spending by $41 million from base funding for FY 2012-13, a 23 percent reduction. The House goes much further, cutting transportation spending by $138 million in FY 2012-13, or 77 percent of general fund spending. And all of these cuts fall on mass transit. The general fund accounts for just three percent of all transportation spending – and nearly 90 percent of that general fund money goes to transit. Most funding for transportation comes from other funding sources, such as the gas tax or federal highway funding.

The Senate proposal cuts general fund spending for Metro Transit by $32 million in FY 2012-13, a 25 percent reduction. The Senate also cuts $8 million from transit in Greater Minnesota, but fills in that cut with an $8 million transfer from a fund that supports suburban area transit providers. The end result is a $40 million cut to transit in the metro area.

The House cuts are even more dramatic, eliminating all general fund support for Metro Transit in FY 2012-13, a $130 million reduction. The House also cuts nearly $8 million from Greater Minnesota transit (a 23 percent cut) and eliminates all of the Department of Transportation’s general fund money for commuter and passenger rail.

The Governor’s supplemental budget proposes no transit cuts.

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Minnesota Budget Bites is a blog for the Minnesota Budget Project, an initiative of MEP member group, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.

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