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The disingenuous political game
May 9, 2016

BY GABE LICHT
Editor

During Thursday’s Highway 12 Safety Coalition meeting, Sen. David Osmek, R, Mound, gave an update regarding the status of bonding in the Senate, especially as it related to $15 million in funding he proposed for Highway 12 improvements.

According to Osmek, Senate Democrats proposed a $1.8 billion bonding bill, which would have been the largest in state history.

Republicans offered an amendment to cut that amount to $987 million, which failed. When the total bond bill came up for a vote again, it failed, as well.

“Now comes the political game,” Osmek said, “where they’ll say Senator Osmek doesn’t support Highway 12.”

Guess what? It only took Gov. Mark Dayton’s Deputy Chief of Staff Linden Zakula a few hours to do just that, not only to Osmek, but every Republican Senator who didn’t vote for everything the Democrats wanted.

Zakula sent out an email titled “What happened today on bonding.”

“Today, the Minnesota Senate DFL majority brought forward a bonding bill that would create tens of thousands of Minnesota jobs, and invest $1.5 billion in critical infrastructure projects across Minnesota,” Zakula wrote. “Senate Republicans refused to support the bill, and voted against projects within their own communities. Therefore, the bill did not pass, and the fate of these projects now remains uncertain. As local reporters and editors write about what happened today, the following list includes projets that Republican legislators voted against in their own districts.”

The email then listed a total of $179,747,000 in projects throughout the 20 Republicans’ districts that were included in the final bonding bill that failed in the senate.

I’ll admit I’m not the best at math, and yet even I can figure out that slightly less than $180 million is a far cry from $1.5 billion, in fact it’s about 12 percent.

I’d wager a guess that the vast majority, if not all, of those $180 million in projects were included in the amended bonding bill that Republicans voted for and Democrats opposed.

(In that way, Democrats also voted against those projects.)

I know for a fact that Highway 12 funding was in the Republicans’ amendment. Not only is Highway 12 funding a priority for Senate Republicans, but key Senate Democrats such as Scott Dibble – the chair of the transportation committee – and Terri Bonoff have spoken in support of it.

I witnessed Dibble’s support for Highway 12 funding personally during the initial transportation committee meeting when the funding was first requested. He was visibly emotional after hearing testimony from individuals who have lost loved ones on Highway 12, as one of his high school teachers had recently been killed in a crash.

In other words, Highway 12 funding is not a partisan issue. Trying to make it a partisan issue disgusts me.

I know what you may be thinking: “Republicans do the same thing when it’s convenient for them.”

You’re right. As Osmek said, it’s all a part of the political game. That’s not going to stop me from pointing out that it’s a disingenuous tactic, regardless of which party is using it.

Bringing Highway 12 into the equation makes it personal for me and everyone else who regularly drives the “Corridor of Death,” as some have begun to call it.

Highway 12 is not a political football that can be lobbed back and forth. This is not a game. This is a matter of life and death. So, I’m calling on all parties involved to stop playing politics with people’s lives and take a step toward fixing Highway 12.

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