well underway. Additionally, Minnesota was one of nine states to win a federal Race To The Top (RTT)early learning grant. Winning states were asked todemonstrate a commitment to making early learningprograms more effective, accessible and coordinated.
The legislature missed important opportunities toexpand public transportation and improve road andbridge safety. We succeeded in halting Republicanproposals to both increase fares and cut Metro Tran-sit. The Omnibus Transportation Policy bill includedDibble-Hornstein provisions to enhance bike safetyand ensure that bicycles with a modest boost to ped-als be defined simply as bicycles. While the bondingbill did include a small amount of funding for a down-town Minneapolis light rail and commuter rail hub,known as the Interchange, no progress was made tosupport the Southwest LRT line, nor the I-35W/LakeStreet transit station. It also barely made a dent infunding needed for bridge and road safety improve-ments, which is particularly troubling as we approachthe fifth anniversary of the I-35W bridge collapse.
The legislature made a $496 million investment ininfrastructure improvements though the biennialcapital bonding bill. While the Southwest Light RailTransit Corridor was not funded (even with the strongbacking of the metro business community and thecitizens in the western suburbs), the bill does investin a transit center to be located near the Twinsstadium. Additionally, the final legislation contains$50 million for asset preservation and replacementfor the University of Minnesota, and $95 millionfor investment in Minnesota’s state colleges anduniversities, most notably $8.9 million for updatingclassroom and training facilities at MinneapolisCommunity and Technical College.
Republican budgets have driven property taxes, themost regressive tax, up 82%, fully $3.8 billion in thelast 10 years via cuts to Local Government Aid andCounty Program Aid, cuts to K-12 education, andtransportation costs pushed onto local governments.Before they would end their government shutdownlast summer, Republicans insisted on eliminating theMarket Value Homestead Credit, making permanentthe cut to the renters’ credit, and expanding theaccounting shift to which public schools are subject.Meanwhile, Republicans sought elimination of thestatewide property tax for businesses, which onceagain would have pushed more taxes onto residents.One bright spot was our success in merging policeand fire pension funds into the state’s larger pensionsystem, eliminating what would have been a $26million Minneapolis property tax levy.
In the face of continuing tight budgets, proposals werefloated to divert constitutionally dedicated Legacyfunds for a variety of projects, including the Vikingsstadium, restoration of the State Capitol building, andeven a proposal to insist that 40% of the fund addressK-12 education needs. Such plans run contrary tothe intent and language of the recently enactedLegacy Amendment. Highlights of the final bills wereinvestment in aquatic invasive species research at theU of M and continued significant supplemental fundingto be distributed by the Minnesota Arts Board.