As you are aware, the 1991 Minnesota Legislature was faced with a budget crisis like many legislatures throughout the country. Many difficult funding decisions had to be made in response to the budget shortfall. I would like to outline some points that seem to be overlooked in regard to funding of Metro Mobility.
For the 1990-91 biennium, the Regional Transit Board (RTB) received a state appropriation of $47,099,000 (amended) for all of its programs, including Metro Mobility, MTC and other programs. Approximately $21.5 million (46%) was earmarked for Metro Mobility.
For the 1992-93 biennium, the Governor recommended a funding level of only $45,552,000 to the RTB, which was a decrease from the previous biennium and was $13.1 million less than the amount requested by the RTB. The Governor further recommended that the RTB reallocate its resources to fund Metro Mobility at $27,086,000. This recommendation by the Governor assumed fare increases and service cutbacks for the program.
In addition, the Governor vetoed the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET) fund transfer for the 1994-95 biennium. The legislature had sought to retain this dedicated source of funds, of which 25% would have been guaranteed for transit assistance.
For the 1992-93 biennium, the legislature increased the state appropriation for Metro Mobility to $25,336,000, which was an increase in state funding of 18% over the previous biennium. The total appropriation for the RTB for the 1992-93 biennium was $54,259,000 — $8.7 million over the Governor’s recommendation. Of this state appropriation, 47% is specified for Metro Mobility.
The legislature’s decision was to balance the transit needs of all members of the metropolitan area and spread the limited resources evenly. This past session the legislature created a paratransit task force to study the possible consolidation and coordination of Metro Mobility trips funded by the RTB and medical assistance trips funded by the Department of Human Services. We will have an opportunity next session to review this study and look at alternative funds for the Metro Mobility program.
James I. Rice is chairman of the Appropriation Subcommittee on Infrastructure.