Minnesota Lawmakers Split On Federal Funding For SWLRT Line

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Republicans and Democrats have agreed on a spending bill that will avert a government shutdown in Washington, D.C.

The $1 trillion spending bill will fund the government through Sept. 30. The bill includes more money for border security and billions of dollars for the U.S. military. It’s scheduled for a vote in the House on Wednesday and has the bipartisan support needed to pass.

President Donald Trump dropped some of his initial demands so lawmakers could reach a deal. If approved, the spending bill will be President Trump’s biggest legislative accomplishment to date.

The federal budget also includes planning for the Southwest Light Rail Transit line proposed for Minneapolis and the western suburbs.

Light rail supporters are calling it a “vote of confidence” from the Trump administration. But critics at the State Capitol say they are undeterred.

Southwest LRT is one of four transit projects Congress included in the appropriations bill it will pass this week to keep the government running. It also funded projects in Maryland, Santa Ana and Seattle.

“That’s going to represent this much mobility. Jobs. Economic development. People being able to get where they need to go. It says that we’re moving forward with this,” Sen. Scott Dibble of Minneapolis said.

The Metropolitan Council, which oversees the Southwest LRT project, says the $10 million appropriation will allow planning to continue.

But it’s only a drop in the bucket for the $2 billion rail line, and opposition at the State Capitol remains strong.

Critics like State Senator Dave Osmek and 83 other lawmakers signed a letter in March asking the Trump administration to deny federal funds for the Southwest LRT project. And a Republican-sponsored transportation bill demands that lawmakers vote on it before Southwest can go ahead.

“Even if the federal government thinks that this might be a good idea, the people of Minnesota through their legislature are going to have the opportunity to speak to this. We’re not saying this project is going forward yet,” Osmek said.

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