Flanked by a local panel of transportation leaders, Sen. Amy Klobuchar presented a roomful of listeners her take on road and bridge infrastructure Monday.
"When I think about northern Minnesota and how all of it is connected, I think about the port and how all roads lead to the port," Klobuchar told a packed conference room at the St. Louis County Public Safety Building.
Klobuchar noted "a lot of bipartisan support" in Washington, D.C., for infrastructure funding and upgrades, but that President Donald Trump's proposed budget would cut vital supports to port, rail and air.
"We've got to push back at these," Klobuchar said.
The president's "skinny budget," as Klobuchar called it, is counterbalanced by a major infrastructure package of $1 trillion that Trump has supported since his days on the campaign trail. It matches nicely with the transportation dollars hoped for by the Senate, she said. Klobuchar's biggest lament came in relaying that she heard Trump's people don't want to pick up the issue until 2018.
The senator listened to concerns from everyone from small airport operators, who would be hit particularly hard by the Trump budget, to the labor leaders that represent the men and women put to work by new highway and bridge projects.
"Every million dollars of construction is equal to 15.3 jobs," said Craig Olson, president of Duluth Building Trades.
Last Congress, Klobuchar and a bipartisan group of senators led efforts to pass the first long-term transportation bill in a decade. Under the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, Minnesota will receive more than $783 million in 2017, more than $800 million in 2018, more than $818 million in 2019 and more than $838 million in 2020 for roads, bridges and transit.
"We need to be ahead of our time here in Duluth," Klobuchar said, calling on the roomful of leaders to get projects shovel-ready in order to take advantage of the federal FAST Act money that's available across the next five years only.