Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Bonding proposal will take center stage during short 2016 session

Tom Klein
Posted 3/4/16

ST. PAUL - A state bonding proposal will take center stage for much of the 2016 legislative session.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed that state borrow $1.4 billion to pay for more than 100 …

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Bonding proposal will take center stage during short 2016 session

Posted

ST. PAUL - A state bonding proposal will take center stage for much of the 2016 legislative session.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed that state borrow $1.4 billion to pay for more than 100 public projects across the state, noting that an overflowing state treasury and low interest rates make it an opportune time to invest in unmet needs and create construction jobs.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to make the kind of significant investment in the future of Minnesota — in our infrastructure, in our higher education buildings — that we need, and that we are seriously behind in accomplishing,” the governor said when he announced his bond proposal in January.

The proposal has drawn both praise and criticism, with some Republicans calling it “too pricey.”

Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, wants the bonding bill cut in half.

“Bonding is just another word for borrowing money,” Hann said. “Just like any business or any family, you don’t just go out and run up as big a debt as you possibly can.”

State Rep. Jason Metsa, DFL-Virginia, however, said the time is right for a robust bonding bill.

Rep. Tom Anzelc, DFL-Balsam, also favors passing the governor’s bonding proposal, and cited Dayton’s water quality initiatives in particular.

The governor calls for spending $220 million to improve water quality in the state, with $167 million earmarked to help cities update water treatment systems and $53 million targeted for water protection measures.

“The governor’s water projects are really bold and a really good idea,” said Anzelc. “Protecting water is something citizens talk to me about wherever I go.”

The governor’s bonding proposal also includes funds for several area projects, including $3 million to upgrade the mine hoist at Soudan Underground Mine State Park, $2 million for development at the new Lake Vermilion State Park, $1 million for a campground at Jay Cooke State Park near Carlton and $500,000 for rehabilitation at the Grand Mound state historic site near International Falls.

In addition, the governor’s proposal allocates $21 million for Duluth to convert its steam energy system in downtown Duluth to a hot water system, $5 million for a new chairlift at Giants Ridge ski area in Biwabik, $3 million for a new terminal at the International Falls-Koochiching County Airport, and $6 million for the creation of a new, larger facility for the Northern Dental Access Center in Bemidji.

The governor also targeted $135 million to build and remodel colleges, including $6.6 million for a “campus reconfiguration” at Hibbing Community College and funds for maintenance and upkeep at Ely’s Vermilion Community College.

Rail safety, highlighted by the transport of North Dakota oil through Minnesota on trains or pipelines, also got the governor’s attention.

He wants $3.5 million to create a center for training public safety personnel who may deal with oil train or pipeline incidents. The center would be built at Camp Ripley, while a Minneapolis training center would get a $2.5 million expansion.

Citing an academic study, Gov. Dayton said his bonding proposals would create 39,000 construction jobs.

“I want to thank the governor for recognizing that preserving what we already have is just as important as building new projects,” said Rep. Rob Ecklund, DFL-International Falls. “While funding maintenance projects doesn’t grab headlines, it is critical for supporting our tourism industry and supporting a diverse economy.”

Ecklund added he’s looking forward to working with the governor, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and his House colleagues “to produce jobs, build Minnesota and create a better future for our state.”

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