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Commentary: Minnesota needs transportation investment

Recently , a broad and diverse coalition representing agriculture, businesses, workers, and local governments met at the State Capitol to tell legislators that we are there to work with them to make sure that 2017 is the year where we our state c...

Briana Sanchez | Tribunemug of Perry Aasness
Briana Sanchez | Tribune mug of Perry Aasness

Recently , a broad and diverse coalition representing agriculture, businesses, workers, and local governments met at the State Capitol to tell legislators that we are there to work with them to make sure that 2017 is the year where we our state commits to a robust transportation infrastructure investment.

This was about far more than just roads and bridges. For example, Minnesota farmers and agribusinesses depends on a multimodal system which includes rail, ports and waterways to move products. As I have traveled across Minnesota in recent months meeting with Minnesota AgriGrowth Council members, I have heard loud and clear that farmers and agribusinesses are counting on this Legislature and Governor Dayton to address the critical need to pass a robust transportation funding package this session. This is an important issue for Greater Minnesota communities, not only the point of origin for many of our agricultural products, but also the destination for many of the goods that keep our rural areas efficient and productive. Roads and bridges are the first link in our transportation system that connects Minnesota's agriculture sector to local, national and global markets. Without new investments to maintain and modernize our road and bridge system, Minnesota agriculture and Greater Minnesota risk losing out on future jobs and economic opportunities.

We expect our state government to support rural jobs by creating the conditions for success, and a major part of that is a well-maintained transportation system, ensuring goods and services can move efficiently inside our state, as well as across borders. Investment in transportation infrastructure is a key and basic function of our state and local governments, and frankly should not be as controversial as it has sometimes been.

There is a reason why we are so confident that the 2017 Legislature will finally deliver a transportation funding bill. As you saw recently, groups that have sometimes been at odds, or often disagree on priorities stood together to say that this must be a priority this year and we're here to help get it done. On top of that, during the 2016 election cycle, legislative candidates from both sides of the aisle campaigned on making transportation investment a priority.

For west central Minnesota, this includes making sure that Highways 12, 75, 23 and others are always suited to efficiently serve local businesses in greater Minnesota as well as those companies' workforce. We want our thriving agricultural community and our local government officials to be able to help preserve and enhance our environment as a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family.

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There is an incredibly diverse group of advocates now standing together on the need for our state to focus on making 2017 the year we make a significant investment in our transportation infrastructure. There are details that need to be, and will be hashed out between policy makers, and we will be there to advocate for our area. Most importantly, we will be a partner for a solution.

We know that there will also be a robust discussion on exactly what mechanisms are available to fund the significant need. Many ideas have been proposed. We know that, as in most good public policy debates, not everyone is going to get all of what they want. There will be compromise, discussion; give and take.

I'm hopeful that a robust, significant transportation investment is on the horizon. To protect and grow jobs in Minnesota, new investment in transportation must occur this session. It's time for action. AgriGrowth and members of the coalition that advocated last week for action on transportation funding package this session are ready to help our Governor Dayton and legislators fulfill their commitments to voters.

Related Topics: TRANSPORTATION
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