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Battle Over Transportation Funding Begins At The Capitol

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The fight over spending is underway at the Minnesota Capitol, and one conversation that may dominate much of the session is transportation funding.

Senate Democrats are resuming their push for a comprehensive transportation bill.

Most cities and counties across Minnesota are dealing with aging road conditions, and senate Democrats are arguing that the only fix is a long-term funding bill.

Sen. Scott Dibble, who chairs the Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee, said the bill must be long term and comprehensive so that it includes money not just for the metro but for rural Minnesota.

It's estimated the bill would cost $400-600 million per year for the next 10 years, and it would cover roads and bridge improvements as well as new construction and an investment in mass transit.

Dibble said he's already had discussions with the House transportation committee chair on how to find a funding agreement.

In the past, Republicans have argued for the use of general fund money. Democrats argue a new source of revenue is needed.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said DFLers are looking at all possibilities, like vehicle tabs or a potential service charge or tax.

"I think we're at a place where we all recognize and agree we have a problem and we even agree on a number," Bakk said. "Now, it's just math and figuring out how to get to what we can all agree on. I'm looking forward to that conversation."

Lawmakers are not relying on the $900 million budget surplus to pay for the bill.

Dibble said some surplus money might make its way into the bill but lawmakers want a long-term transportation funding bill and surplus money is a one-time payment.

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