MPR News reporter Dan Olson writes:
Minnesota road, bridge and transit advocates are breathing a sigh of relief. The transportation bill agreed to as part of the state budget agreement doesn't cut transit funding as deeply as originally proposed. And it contains some additional money for road maintenance.
The statement from the Metropolitan Council, the parent agency of Metro Transit which operates the buses and rail system, says the agreement means there won't be any fare increases or service reductions.
Bill Neuendorf, director of policy and advocacy for Transit for Livable Communities, says the bill's 40 percent cut in state general fund revenue for the next two years is much less drastic than originally proposed.
Still, the budget agreement does cut transit funding by $51.8 million.
The Metropolitan Council says the agency will deal with the cuts by shifting some local sales tax revenue intended mainly for transit development to pay for operating the trains and buses. They'll also use some federal and regional funds and continue to draw on reserves to help pay operating costs.
The Met Council says it will cut funds to suburbs who operate their own public bus service independent of Metro Transit trains and buses.
UPDATE: Here's the Met Council's read on the bill:
-- Transit service would be maintained at current levels, without a fare increase.
-- The bill would appropriate $78 million from the state general fund to transit operations in the 2012-13 biennium, a reduction of $51.8 million (or 40 percent), which is much improved from the reduction of $109 million in the earlier Transportation Finance bill.
-- The $51.8 million reduction would be addressed with:
o New funding to the Council for transit operations from the Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB) of $15.3 million
o Reduction in funding to Suburban Transit Providers of $7.2 million.
o Metro Transit administrative reductions , which would not result in job losses; converting federal and regional capital funds to operating funds; and dropping reserves to a minimum level--to make up the remaining $29.3 million.
-- The bill would make it possible to avoid:
o Fare increase
o Service cuts, other than routine reductions due to low ridership/route performance.