Minnesota state Rep. Mike Beard (R) is famous among people who enjoy laughing at stupid things politicians say. A sampling:
- You may recall his argument against high-speed rail: “We already have highways.”
- His argument that coal mining hasn’t done any damage to the earth: “When we were done, we put it all back together again.”
- Perhaps best of all, his argument that God’s beneficence effectively renders moot any and all resource and environmental issues: “God is not capricious. … We are not going to run out of anything.”
Beard got a BA in Bible Missions at the Bethany College of Missions. I wonder if that’s where he picked up his keen powers of observation and insight.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, Beard is the chair of the state legislature’s transportation committee, so he’s in a position to go beyond saying stupid things to doing stupid things.
For instance! Beard recently introduced an omnibus transportation finance bill (HF1140) that would radically slash funding for transit services. And I mean radical — on the order of $120 million. The Metropolitan Council (which runs the Twin Cities’ bus system) wrote Beard a letter explaining what the cuts would mean for bus service:
A fare-increase-only approach would mean:
1. A $4.00 fare increase, bringing regular-route fares to between $5.75 and $7.00 per ride.
2. A 50 percent to 60 percent loss in rides provided, or 40 million to 48 million fewer rides on the Metro Transit system per year.
A system-wide approach to the cut would mean:
1. Laying off approximately 550 drivers and related staff.
2. Cutting nearly 45 percent of regular-route bus service.
3. Cutting 240 peak rush hour bus trips.
4. Reducing Metro Mobility operating hours.
5. Saturday and Sunday regular route and all dial-a-ride programs may be eliminated.
6. A $0.25 across-the-board fare increase.
7. 22 million fewer rides in both 2012 and 2013.
As the letter points out, these cuts would have devastating impacts on the regional economy, clog the roads with new drivers, and above all, disproportionately punish low-income and elderly public transit users.
But what does Beard care? He’s an affluent white guy who drives a car. He hangs out with other affluent white guys who drive cars. (They already have highways!) He doesn’t have to take the bus to his minimum wage job. He’s free to act on ideological abstractions, pat religious homilies, and Fox News “facts.”
Addendum: In other Beard news, he’s also the lead sponsor of a bill that would repeal Minnesota’s pioneering restrictions on new coal power plants. (For the record, Beard voted for the popular energy bill he’s now trying to repeal. Now that the Tea Party’s in charge, he says he made a mistake.) Beard’s bill passed the Minnesota House and is headed to the Senate.
He’s also co-sponsoring a bill to lift Minnesota’s moratorium on new nuclear plants and a bill to slash funding for higher education and mental health services. He’s on a Mission, all right, but it doesn’t sound divine to me.