State lawmaker plans to change $340M SWLRT budget deficit agreement

State lawmaker plans to change $340M SWLRT budget deficit agreement

State lawmaker plans to change $340M SWLRT budget deficit agreement

The Southwest Light Rail Transit project faces a potential $340 million budget shortfall.

The Metropolitan Council has agreed to split that budget deficit cost 55-45 with Hennepin County. If the Met Council approves the deal Wednesday, it will pay $150 million and Hennepin County will kick in another $190 million.

But Rep. Brad Tabke, DFL-Shakopee, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS he is not in favor of that negotiated deal. If the Met Council approves the agreement, he plans to introduce legislation that would change the 55-45 split so Hennepin County pays a higher share.

“That will keep the state portion — so that’s the sales tax pieces that the Met Council has — keep that to a much smaller percentage than a 55-45 split,” Tabke said. “If we have the votes to change that agreement, it will look much different.”

Read KSTP’s full Southwest Light Rail coverage

Tabke said he is also concerned the $150 million coming from the Met Council could significantly delay future transportation projects in the other six counties served by the Met Council.

“Because this is something Hennepin County should be paying for based on past deals and past agreements and Hennepin County should be paying for this,” Tabke said. “And I am very happy that Met Council members are standing and talking about that.”

When the full Met Council was briefed on the proposed 55-45 agreement last week, Met Council Board Member Wendy Wulff, who represents Dakota County, said she also believes Hennepin County is not paying enough of its own money to close the SWLRT budget gap.

“I am really frustrated with this agreement. We haven’t talked about is this agreement a good agreement. It’s a terrible agreement,” Wulff said.

At that same meeting, Met Council Board Chair Charlie Zelle defended the 55-45 deal and said he was responsible for negotiating the agreement with Hennepin County with the support of Gov. Tim Walz.

“The reason I think it’s a good deal is because it’s one-time costs for something we owned. Am I happy with it? Anybody here happy with it? No,” said Zelle.

The SWLRT is not only over budget, but it is behind schedule. It was supposed to be up and running this year, but now it is not expected to be operational until 2027.