ST. PAUL-Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton blames state House Republicans for blocking more than $100 million in federal highway funds.
The Democratic governor said on Wednesday, Oct. 26, that the road and bridge projects would have been in nearly 30 communities across the state.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation is ready to use the funds, Dayton said, but cannot do it because House Transportation Chairman Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, objected.
"If that objection stands, we will have to wait until the next legislative session" that begins Jan. 3, the governor said, adding that most likely a transportation funding bill would not pass until near the May adjournment date.
Republicans planned to respond to Dayton later Wednesday, but in a letter Kelly sent to the administration on Oct. 19, he said that he stopped the funds because "historically" the Legislature has approved such federal grants. However, a bill that contained funding for transportation projects died earlier this year over disputes between Republicans and Democrats about how to fund them and what to fund. The bill would have approved spending much of the federal money.
Kelly also said that transportation officials did not discuss the issue with him. Dayton said one of his aides and Kelly exchanged voice messages but never actually talked to each other.
Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle said that if a new transportation funding bill is not passed until near the end of the 2017 session, the projects that would benefit from the federal funding will be delayed a year.
"You could characterize all of them as safety improvements," he said.
Dayton, in a letter to Kelly, urged him to reconsider his objection before he retires from the Legislature at the end of the year.
"Do not end your legislative career acting as an obstructionist to needed progress on highways, roads and bridges," Dayton wrote.
The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.