Move Minnesota, Sierra Club, and MN350 Push Back as Gov. Walz’s Budget Proposal Ignores Urgent Need for Transit Investments
Unmet transit needs compromise Minnesota’s ability to address the climate crisis, racial equity, and economic recovery. United in our concern that the Governor’s 2021 budget proposal completely ignores these critical transit needs, Move Minnesota, Sierra Club North Star Chapter, and MN350 issued the following joint statement on January 26:
Today, Governor Walz released his two-year budget proposal with zero new dollars for transit. The Governor’s budget release followed this month’s news that Minnesota once again missed state carbon reduction targets. Transportation is Minnesota’s largest source of climate pollution and multiple studies from around the state—including in the cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis—show that significant and immediate increases in biking, walking, and transit ridership are needed to achieve longer-term climate goals.
Transit investments are also critical for improving connections between people and jobs across the state; currently, Metro Transit’s own data show that “most jobs in the [metro] region aren’t accessible in a reasonable (or unreasonable) amount of time” by transit. This lack of job access disproportionately impacts Black and brown community members—who make up 44% of metro area transit riders—and those who were designated “essential workers” during the COVID pandemic (these workers make up 40% of Twin Cities transit riders).
Transit investments are also critical for facilitating economic stability and activity: car ownership costs just under $10K per year on average but it is an expense that can be avoided by community members who have viable transportation alternatives.
“Governor Walz is investing nothing in transit at a moment when climate change and racial inequalities demand transformative investments and action. This is unacceptable, plain and simple,” remarked Sam Rockwell, Executive Director of Move Minnesota. “Serious long-term investments in transit would lower expenses for Minnesotans, lower the state’s carbon emissions, and would create welcoming, accessible, sustainable, and democratic communities across the state. It’s a tragedy for all of us that the Governor cannot see that.”
“Minnesotans are ready to make a state and climate where we can all be safe and healthy, and we expect to hear a plan from Governor Walz that actually addresses climate change, which he has called an ‘existential threat,'” stated Margaret Levin, State Director of Sierra Club North Star Chapter. “Yet, to our disappointment, the Governor’s budget is not a ‘climate budget’ and falls far short of the urgent action we need to advance climate justice. We appreciate Governor Walz asking the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share. But we need a budget that #FundsOurLives, and there is little for climate and nothing for transit—even though our transportation system is the largest source of climate pollution and worsens inequality. A focus on COVID is needed, but we also know the climate crisis will fall most heavily on the same communities hit hardest by the pandemic.”
“Today’s disappointing budget announcement from the Walz administration should trouble all Minnesotans who care about making progress on greenhouse gas reduction and protecting our planet for future generations,” added Sam Grant, Executive Director of MN350. “We need our leaders to size their vision for policy solutions to match the scale of the worsening climate crisis. We need a moon shot, and Governor Walz has proposed a pop gun.”
The Governor stated in his press conference that transit is a “federal responsibility.” While transit does receive federal money—just like housing, health, education, small business support, and other government programs—transit investments require significant local matches. Further, while transit received support through national recovery funds, the recent federal influx of $185M represents just 3% of the system’s 10-year need, according to Move Minnesota calculations, leaving enormous needs unmet.
The budget process now goes to the state House and Senate. “We call on Minnesota House and Senate members to demand transit for their constituents and our state. We know a sustainable and just Minnesota is possible with leadership on transit,” Rockwell said.