NEW ULM - Republican governor hopeful Marty Seifert has been criss-crossing the state as he seeks the party's nomination for the governor's race.
Because he lives in Marshall, the far southwest corner of the state, that means Seifert spends a lot of time driving on Highway 14. And he knows it's a project that needs to get done.
Seifert said Tuesday, during a visit in New Ulm, that he would make roads and bridges the transportation priority for the state if elected governor. He would halt construction on the $1.6 billion Southwest Light Rail Transit Line.
"The new light rail project from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie is 14 miles long. It will service, at best, a couple thousand people a day. It will probably start with a couple hundred people a day. (It costs) 1.6 billion dollars. No one with a straight face can say that it meets a cost/benefit analysis. The amount of users, the miles of track, and just the system itself - if anyone has paid attention to winter over the last four months ... if someone believes they're going to take their kid to a dental appointment, or drag their groceries and rock salt home on a light rail train and somehow bike it to their home from a light rail station, from December to March, it's not going to happen."
The money for that, and for bike paths and other "nice-to-have" projects would be better used for "must-have" projects, like maintaining roads and bridges.
Seifert would dedicate one-third of the state's bonding bills to transportation projects to help fund needed maintenance and repairs. He didn't think an increase in gasoline taxes was going to be a political possibility in the near future.
Seifert said he was grateful for the tax bill that passed in the Legislature recently, providing tax relief and repealing business-to-business sales taxes. "I wish there was more tax relief, but you take what you can get," he said.
Seifert said he is hearing a lot of dissatisfaction from voters about the Senate office building project, a $90 million project approved in the last session as part of the state tax bill. It is an overpriced "boondoggle," he hears from people he has talked to, and people don't think it's necessary.
Senators who will be displaced by Capitol renovations should be able to find ample office space for rent near the Capitol, or be housed in other government buildings. The space in the Capitol has been adequate for hearings and offices for many decades, even during recent hearings on issues like same-sex marriage.
"We need to knock that office building in the head. $90 million is a lot of money, about 10 percent of the surplus, and there are better things to use it for."
"I don't know why the governor didn't use the line-item veto on it. Now he says it's too expensive and wants to take another look at it. He should have line-item vetoed it when he had the chance."
Seifert said he strongly opposes releasing dangerous sex offenders currently held in the state's sex offender commitment program. But if the courts rule the program unconstitutional, the state needs to revisit the system of how it monitors and treats these offenders. For the most dangerous, Seifert would change the penalty for repeat offenses to life in prison, which is cheaper than being held in treatment programs in St. Peter or Moose Lake.
For these offenders, treatment is useless and incarceration is the best and most cost effective answer.
Seifert said there are many unanswered questions about the MNsure program, which has low premiums but among the highest co-pays and deductibles in the country.
"They're not having any hearings on it," he said.