LET Thank Republicans for highway projects

By Steve Sviggum

Metro-area commuters tired of sitting in traffic jams and rural Minnesota residents fed-up with driving on deteriorating, dangerous highways will soon be getting much-needed relief.

In July, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and House Republicans announced that 19 major highway-upgrade projects across the state will be finished a combined 82 years earlier than previously scheduled.

From the rerouting and expansion of Highway 212 through fast-growing Carver County, to the upgrading of Highways 53 in Duluth and 52 north of Rochester, Minnesotans soon will be driving on safer and more efficient thoroughfares, allowing us to spend more time at home with our families and less time stuck on the road.

The acceleration of these 19 highway projects is the direct result of an $800 million highway-funding package passed by Republican legislators and signed into law by Gov. Pawlenty.


The $800 million comes from the issuance of $400 million in state-backed bonds that allow the state to capture an additional $400 million in advance funds from the federal government. The bonds will be paid off annually through $36.8 million in administrative savings at the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The Republican highway-funding package does more with the state's current financial resources, spending taxpayer dollars more wisely and prudently. By issuing bonds now to finance the package, we're saving money by finishing these 19 projects earlier -- before inflation increases costs -- and enabling other important projects to move up on MnDOT's list.

Best of all, the Republican highway-funding package will help improve Minnesota's economy -- the projects are estimated to produce 3,700 construction jobs and another 16,000 jobs indirectly, not to mention all of the business and economic development driven by better highways.

All of this is great news for Minnesota. Despite facing the biggest budget deficit in our state's history, Republicans successfully passed the largest investment ever in our highway system -- and we did it without raising taxes.

You wouldn't think that building better highways would be a partisan issue at the Capitol, but surprisingly, it is for Minnesota Democrats.

The Democrats did all they could this past session to stop the Republican highway-funding package from becoming law. They dragged the issue into a special session, and when the package finally was voted on, only four of 88 Democrats in the Legislature voted for it.

Continuing their tax-and-spend tradition, DFL leaders in St. Paul said they'd only support increasing funding for highways by raising taxes. They said the Republican plan -- using bonding to increase highway funding -- was "irresponsible" because it was "using the state's credit card to build roads" and we just "haven't done it like that before in Minnesota."

Why do Democrats have such a problem with doing things in government differently? Is the DFL Party so trapped in the 1970s that its legislators are willing to put the party's liberal, out-of-date philosophy ahead of Minnesotans tied up in traffic?


DFL legislators fall all over themselves every two years to vote for $1 billion-plus borrowing bills building pork projects in their home districts. You never hear the "using the state's credit card" line coming out of the Democrats' mouths then. Talk about screwed-up priorities.

With a $4.5 billion budget deficit, we had to think outside the box this past session to get the job done for Minnesota, and that's exactly what Republicans did.

Sviggum, R-Kenyon, is speaker of the Minnesota House

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