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SQUARE DEALTO ALL
An Equitable Distribution of the Road and Bridge Fund Among the Several Counties. Talk Delivered at St. Cloud fleeting of Northern flinnesota Devel- opment Association. [The following paper was prepared by R. C. Dunn and read at the St. Cloud meeting of the Northern Minnesota Development association, and is reproduced in the Union solely for the purpose of testing public sentiment on the question of an equitable distribution of the state road and bridge fund. I hope the friends of good roads will not be backward in express ing their opinions, no matter whether favor able or unfavorable.R. C. D.] As no particular topic has been as signed me, I will take it for granted that I have license to talk at random. It would be a waste of time to argue in behalf of good roads. Not only Northern Minnesota but the entire state is interested in the movement for better public highways. Good roads are just as essential to the well being of the people of Rock and Houston as those of Kittson and Itasca counties. The good roads question is not a sectional one it is state-wide. We, the representatives of the northern counties, must bear that in mind. Let us freely concede to the other counties of the state what we seek to obtain for the counties we represent. Since the meeting at Brainerd a year agothe last one I attended considerable has been accomplished in the enactment of legislation to farther the cause of road-improvement .in the state, and more ought to have been accomplished. Several meritori ous good roads measures failed of passage in the last legislature, nota bly the Peterson bill, which provided jhat all road taxes should be paid in money. Chapter 33, General Laws of 1911, a "measure that was fathered by the road and bridge committee of the house and passed both branches by a practically unanimous vote, provides or the levying of a state road tax of ne-fourth of a millheretofore only ne-twentieth of a mill was levied. 'he one-fourth of a mill tax, together ith the income deriyed from the in srnal improvement land fund, five er cent of the sales of government ind, and the milk and cream licenses, ill place a fund of about $325,000 at ie disposal of the highway commis on next year. The total amount of iat fund for the fiscal year ending aly 31, 1911, was $86,097.80. But the most important provision Chapter 33 is that which provides an annual appropriation of $150,- 00 to enable the state highway com nission to employ a corps of eompe ent assistant engineers to supervise he work of road construction throughout the entire state. In some luarters the erroneous impression prevails that these assistant engineers simply exercise supervision over money expended and work performed on state roads and bridges. The services of these deputy engineers are at the disposal of town and county boards in the construction or im provement of town, county or judicial roads to make plans and specifica tions when so required to exercise supervision over such construction or improvements, and to lend every pos sible assistance to the local road authorities in bettering the public highways. It has been no easy mat ter to secure the right kind of men for deputy engineers, but, all things con sidered, the highway commission is making good progress, and ere an other year rolls around a force of competent men will cover the entire state. The services these deputy engi neers can render town and county boards cannot be overestimated. Uutil this year the highest amount appropriated annually for the main tenance of the highway commission, including the entire office and field force, was the beggarly pittance of $8,300. The department of public highways should and undoubtedly will become the most important and most bene ficial of ail the departments of the state government. Chapter 390 of the laws of 1911, another measure fathered by the road and bridge committee of the house, provides for the submission of an amendment to the constitution which, if adopted by the voters, will permit the levying of a one-mill tax for the purpose of lending aid in the con struction and improvement of state highways and bridges. Thet adoption of this amendment means much to the people of the state as a whole. It will place Minnesota in the van of the progressive good roads states and will be a long step toward gridironing the state with a splendid system of public highways. No other question so vitally affects the interests of so many people. The defeat of the amendment would be a public calamity, would give the cause of good roads in this state a setback from which it would take years to re cover. Hence, I sincerely hope that no action will be taken by this associ ation, at the present or any subse quent meeting, that would tend in the remotest degree to prejudice the voters of any section of our state against the one-mill tax amendment. It is unnecessary for me to make any extended argument to you in favor of the one-mill tax amendment. The total assessable valuation of the state for the present year (moneys and credits not included) is $1,199,- 529,606. If the voters adopt the amendment next year and the 1913 legislature provides for the levying of the one-mill tax, the proceeds of that tax will not be available until 1914, but in 1914 the highway commission will have at its disposal a fund of not less than $1,225,000 to assist in im proving the public highways and bridges of the statethat would give each of the 86 counties on an average in round numbers $14,500. Some counties would receive more and some less, but the average would be the figures mentioned. With this magnifi cent fund properly utilized, as it un doubtedly would be, what an impetus would be given the cause of good roads throughout the length and breadth of the state. PRINCETON UNION SUPPLEMENT, DECEMBER 14, 1911. Right here permit me to make a suggestion which, if favorably acted upon by this convention, will go a long ways toward insuring the adop tion of the one-mill amendment by the voters next November. Many good people in southern and central Min nesoa have become possessed of the idea that the northern counties will receive more than their proportionate share of the state road and bridge fund. Under the law and the consti tution it is possible for one county to get three per cent, and an adjoining county only one-half of one per cent of the fundin other words it is pos sible for one county to get six times as much as another county. The highway commission could apportion 66 per cent of the fund to 22 counties and 32 per cent to the other 64 counties. It is highly improbable that any highway commission would ever make such a grossly unfair division of the funds. Here is my suggestion: Let this association go on record as favoring an amendment to chapter 33, General Laws of 1911, which will pro vide that each county shall receive not less than one per cent of the state road and bridge fund every year. Such an amendment would be consti tutionalwould be within the one-half of one per cent minimum and the three per cent maximum. There are 86 counties in the state. If each county were to receive one per cent that would leave 14 per cent ad ditional to be distributed among the counties most deserving of state aid, and surely there would be no objec tion if the counties that contribute the larger share of the fund and the northern counties, where hundreds of thousands of acres of state lands are located, received a little more than one per cent. If the association goes on record as favoring the proposition I have out lined there will be no question as to the result of the vote on the one-mill tax amendment. It is a fair proposi tion. Assuming that the one-mill amendment carries and that the legis lature provides for the levying of the tax, one per cent of the fund would give to each county at least $12,225, and there are only ten counties in the state that would be required to pay more than that amount into the state treasury. Another amendment to Chapter 33 which, in my judgment, would be pro ductive of good results, would be the insertion of a section providing for movable rock-crushing plantsthe number advisable to be determined by the highway commission. Dirt roads and split-log drags are all right, but if we are to have permanent good roads in this stategood at all seasons of the yearcrushed rock and gravel must be more generally used for surfacing. In many localities where gravel cannot be obtained "nigger heads" abound and when crushed they make the best kind of surfacing material. Since the rock-crushing plant was established at the reformatory up to the present time 529 cars of crushed rock have been shipped to several lo calities and the railroads, very gener ously, carried the same free of charge. Parenthetically, let me say, that the gentleman who has just addressed you, President Hill of the Great Northern, who is also chairman of the highway commission, is deserving of great praise for inaugurating the practice of carrying 100 cars of crushed rook yearly over his roads free of charge. He is a believer in good roads and practices what he preaches. Superintendent Randall informs me that a larger rock-crushing plant could not be advantageously used at the reformatory. The output of the present plant could be increased to 300 cars per annum. But there are other quarries in this vicinity and elsewhere throughout the state where waste material could be utilized. It is hardly to be expected that the rail roads will continue indefinitely to carry crushed rock free of charge, but doubtless low freight rates can be se cured. In my judgment, it will be demonstrated that rock-crushing plants can be used to advantage in various localities throughout the state. In the vicinity of my home town of Princeton we have several fine pieces of granite-surfaced roads. When properly applied crushed granite makes a smooth, compact and lasting roadway. There are other amendments neces sary to chapter 33 which ought to be enacted by the next legislature, but time will not permit of my going into details. Another measure in the interest of good roads was enacted at the last session, chapter 254, known as the Elwell law. For the author of that law I have the highest regard, and unless obliged to defend my position do not care to discuss the measure. Suffice it to say that, while I regard the law as unconstitutional and un workable, if the suggestion I have made is favorably acted uponrecom mend that each county receive at least one per cent of the road and bridge fundthere can be no valid objection raised against the law as far as ap portioning the state road and bridge fund is involved. Let the counties that may elect to operate under the provisions of the Elwell law go ahead, and Godspeed them. Mr. Chairman, I have been accused of being "piqued because the Elwell bill has attracted nearly as much at tention in the public eye as the Dunn bills." How utterly unfounded that accusation is is evidenced by the fact that the records show no road bill fathered by me. Both the road bills I took an active part in framing were introduced as committee bills. It was results I sought, and the empty honor of having my name attached to either of the bills never entered my mind. I have no patent on good roads legislation. With all my heart and soul I will favor any measure, no matter by whom fathered, that will make for a better system of public highways in this state. I yield to no man in my loyalty to northern Minnesota. My voice and pen, my vote and my sympathies al ways have been and always will be with northern Minnesota, but at the same time I stand for a square deal for every section of the state.