for PDF format
of Meeting with Ann Rest
Friday, June 30, 2006
Caribou Coffee, 36th
Avenue North and Hwy 169, New Hope
speaker: State Senator Ann Rest
Verne Johnson and Paul
Background on Ann Rest--Sen.
Rest is a leader on transportation policy in the Minnesota Senate. She
serves as assistant majority leader and is vice chair of the Rules
Committee. She has served 22 years in the Minnesota Legislature. She was
elected to the Minnesota House in 1984 and to the Senate in 2000.
Discussion with Sen. Rest--During
discussion with Verne and Paul the following points were made:
1. Unusual circumstances in
passage of transportation amendment--The
amendment is on the ballot simply by accident. It was added to an omnibus
transportation bill in the House on the last night of the 2005 session.
The Senate decided to go with the bill as is because of other features.
The Governor vetoed the bill, but the Governor's veto didn't apply to the
constitutional amendment, so the amendment remains on the ballot.
During the 2006 session much discussion occurred over whether the
language of the ballot question or the constitutional language could be
changed. Some legislators favored a specific 40 percent for transit and
60 percent for highways. In the end nothing happened, so the original
amendment is in front of the voters, which provides that the Legislature
will have to determine the exact split between transit and highways,
except that transit is guaranteed at least 40 percent by the
2. Rest's criteria for a
said she personally believes three criteria should be followed in
determining whether an amendment is appropriate for the state's
constitution: (1) Is the issue serious? (2) Can the issue only be
handled by the constitution? For example, a unicameral Legislature could
not be created by legislation, only by a constitutional amendment. (3) Is
the issue not an affront to conscience? She reviewed the history of an
amendment for petit juries. The Minnesota Supreme Court had ruled that
only 12-person juries were constitutional. Thus a statute for six-person
juries would be unconstitutional. The Legislature proposed the amendment
and it was approved by the voters.
3. Rest's position on the
favors the amendment. She agreed that the amendment doesn't fit
perfectly with her second criteria, because the Legislature could dedicate
MVST to transit and highways by law, without an amendment. However,
placing MVST in the constitution is consistent with other state policy on
transportation, she said. People understand that the gasoline tax for
motor vehicles is already dedicated by the constitution to
transportation. They assume that the sales tax on motor vehicles also is
constituionally dedicated (even though it isn't). Thus, a constitutional
amendment seems appropriate to affirm what the people already assume is
4. Need for additional revenues--It
was noted that the MVST transfer would provide, at most, 13 percent of
trunk highway needs. Rest agreed that a gasoline tax is needed, too.
She believes that voter support for a gasoline tax increase will be
present, irrespective of whether the amendment passes or fails. She
doesn't think that passage of the amendment would cause people to think
that funding needs have been satisfied. She repeated her point that
many people already think MVST is dedicated.
Rest was critical of the Pawlenty administration's assumption
that highway bonding is the sole solution to highway funding. She said
the administration incorrectly assumed that federal dollars would be
forthcoming to match state bonding money. When that didn't happen as
expected, major projects had to be delayed.
5. Position on an amendment for
natural resources--Rest said
she would not support dedicating in the constitution a portion of current
sales tax revenues for natural resources. The Senate's position was that
voters would have the opportunity to dedicate an increase in the sales
tax to natural resources . She acknowledged that the principles she
outlined earlier aren't fully consistent with her stand on the natural
resources amendment. However, she feels that the need is very urgent.
6. Use of transit dollars for
capital and operating purposes--Rest
said that substantial amounts dedicated for transit would go for operating
purposes, because transit requires considerable personnel to operate.
She said that bonding would be used for new light rail investment, so
capital needs wouldn't be held back by use of dollars for operating
7. Legislature not plagued by
polarization and paralysis--Rest
said she's not so down on the Legislature as many people are. She cited
significant accomplishments in 2006, including a bonding bill, limitations
on eminent domain, and reductions in mercury emissions. The bipartisan
approach the Legislature took on mercury might also be used in subsequent
sessions for renewable energy.
expressed the thanks of the Civic Caucus for Rest's meeting with us
The Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. Core participants
include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting
years of leadership in politics and business.
A working group meets face-to-face to
provide leadership. They are Verne C. Johnson, chair; Lee
Canning, Charles Clay, Bill Frenzel,
Paul Gilje, Jim Hetland,
John Mooty, Jim Olson, Wayne Popham and John Rollwagen.