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Freeborn Co. Makes Case for Transportation Funding Bill

January 06, 2017 07:23 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners met for a workshop Friday to get an update on the legislative session from two local lawmakers.

Already a week in, lawmakers have identified a broad list of priority bills to pass this session - including healthcare and the budget.

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Freeborn County commissioners told Rep. Peggy Bennett (R) and Sen. Dan Sparks (DFL) long-term funding for transportation is vital. Sue Miller, the county’s engineer, says without a bill, the county’s budget for roads and repairs is projected to fall short by about $5 million each year.

"We don’t have a funding source,” Miller told Bennett and Sparks. “We don't know what we're going to do with [the roads] as they start to fail. We start to get nervous. We don't want to turn any blacktop roads back to gravel, that's not anybody’s goal or intent. And, we want to keep our agricultural economy riding on strong roads."

DFL lawmakers, like Gov. Mark Dayton, have said raising the gas tax could fund repairs to crumbling roads and bridges.

"I think it’s very incumbent on us to go up there and make sure that we pass a comprehensive, stable transportation package this legislative session," Sparks said.

But, Republicans want to look inside the state's current funding sources for the money.

"I think we need to look at other things that are driving up the costs of building our roads and bridges because that’s another way to help save money and not have to raise the gas tax,” Bennett said. “I'm willing to work with lots of different entities on this and hopefully we can come upon a good compromise that works for everybody."

Members of the county board say they're non-partisan, they just want to keep blacktops from going back to gravel roads.

"We've done everything that we can do,” Commissioner Mike Lee said to Bennett and Sparks. “We put in the half-cent sales tax, we did the wheelage tax. We’ve done everything. We can't ask the people of Freeborn County to do anymore. We need help from you guys."

The county also hopes a transportation bill would pass soon enough so some road projects could begin in this spring. Both Bennett and Sparks say they hope to pass bills sooner to avoid last year's last-minute lawmaking.


Credits

Megan Stewart

Copyright 2017 - KAAL-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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