$500 million public works plan heads to DaytonST. PAUL — A plan to borrow $500 million for public works projects is headed to Gov. Mark Dayton, who is expected to sign it into law.
By: Danielle Nordine, State Capitol Bureau
ST. PAUL — A plan to borrow $500 million for public works projects is headed to Gov. Mark Dayton, who is expected to sign it into law.
The Minnesota Legislature approved a public works borrowing bill, which includes money for flood prevention, transit, infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges and other needs. Nearly $200 million of the proposal goes to state-run colleges and universities and $44 million to Capitol building renovations.
The House voted 97-33 Tuesday to agree with slight changes to the bill the Senate made when members approved it Monday night.
A lack of projects for the Northland led to Sen. Roger Reinert’s “no” vote on the state Senate’s $496 million bonding bill passed Monday night.
The Democrat from Duluth, the only legislator from Northeastern Minnesota to vote no, said “the bill fell far short of accomplishing what a substantial, regionally balanced bonding package could have done for our community and our state.”
The bill includes almost $50 million that the state Department of Employment and Economic Development can hand out for economic development projects.
The executive branch and DEED would handle applications and grant distribution.
A number of lawmakers tried to add local projects to the bill during debates, but most were unsuccessful.
Reinert said that after last year’s budget debate and state government shutdown, the Legislature failed in its biggest task of the current session: “a fair and balanced bonding bill.”
“With the construction industry still struggling under high unemployment and Mother Nature granting Minnesota an early construction season,” he said, “there was absolutely no reason a sizeable bonding package should not have been passed months ago.”
He said a patchwork of projects was passed that “mostly benefited Republican incumbents, while leaving next to no investment for other regions of the state like Duluth.”
Reinert said he was disappointed that the planned multi-modal transit center, improvements to Wade Stadium, and the American Indian Learning Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth did not make it on the bill.
He said the $6 million needed for the transit center would have brought $20 million in federal grant money that expires at the end of the year.
“Wade Stadium is a landmark in Duluth and an important contributor to our local economy, yet it too was left unfunded in spite of the city’s commitment to match any state investment dollar for dollar,” Reinert said.
He said the American Indian Learning Center at UMD would have freed up classroom space, allowing UMD to offer more courses for all enrolled students.
One of the Northland projects approved is a $6 million grant to provide a system along the Poplar River near Lutsen to provide water for several uses, including making snow at Lutsen Mountains resort.
“We are very grateful to Gov. Mark Dayton, Sen. Tom Bakk, Rep. David Dill and the Legislature for their support of the Lake
Superior-Poplar River Water District and pipeline project,” Charles Skinner, Lutsen co-owner, said in a news release.
Final engineering and permitting is expected to be completed by July and private-land easements have been acquired, according to a news release from Conservation Strategies Inc. The project is expected to be finished before Lutsen’s snowmaking permits expire in 2014.
Other Northland projects in the bill include:
News Tribune staff writer Mike Creger contributed to this report. Danielle Nordine reports for Forum Communications Co.