Published: Thu, January 18, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Mark Dayton proposes $1.5 billion for construction projects

Mark Dayton proposes $1.5 billion for construction projects

The University of Minnesota would get $299 million in Dayton's proposal and the Minnesota State system would receive $243 million.

Public works projects are funded by the state selling bonds, leading to the construction proposal being called a "bonding bill".

"Since 2011, we have made many important investments in Minnesota's aging classrooms, buildings, and other critical infrastructure", said Dayton.

Minnesota communities need the state's help in those areas, said Rep. Alice Hausman, the DFL lead on the House Capital Investment Committee.

Dayton's office said the state has the bonding capacity and high credit ratings to support the plan.

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler and Minnesota State interim Chancellor Devinder Malhotra spoke in support of the governor's plan at the news conference.

The Democratic governor released his so-called bonding bill wish list.

He says the time is ripe to invest heavily in public construction.

The bill allocates $16.2 million for the St. Cloud prison for plumbing and ventilation upgrades in three housing units and $4.45 million for the St. Cloud Armory (now known as the St. Cloud Readiness Center) to expand and renovate the building. He's proposing $3.2 million to fix deteriorating memorials surrounding the Capitol and other state buildings, and another $130 million to maintain the many state-owned trails, campsites, boat launches and piers.

Dayton wants his final bonding bill to be a big one
Minnesota governor unveils $1.54 bln infrastructure plan

Republicans who control the House and Senate left no doubt they can not buy into the Democratic governor's plan.

The money for those payments was included in the almost $130 million in legislative funding Dayton vetoed from the fiscal 2018-19 budget in May in an effort to pressure lawmakers to revise tax measures that he said will harm the state's financial stability.

"As we move into the legislative session, we hope the Governor and Legislature will be able to put their other squabbles aside and pass a bonding bill that promotes economic development, strong infrastructure and thriving communities". But that's proved challenging over the years, as Dayton and Democrats have clashed with Republicans over the types of projects to fund.

"We do believe that this bonding project is sustainable, given the people in Minnesota available to fund these projects and to work on these projects".

Already, Dayton's bill is facing pushback from Republicans for the limited number of road and bridge projects, an element that's often critical for obtaining GOP votes.

The state's latest budget forecast, which projected a $188 million deficit in the current two-year budget, assumed bonding authorization this year of $800 million. Any bill that takes shape this year will need to follow that same blueprint.

About a third of the projects Dayton is proposing are on campuses of the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State systems.

"Now is the time to make substantial investments in our state's future", Dayton said in a statement, adding that his proposal ensures Minnesota has the infrastructure it needs to grow and compete in the modern economy. By contrast, the governor's proposal fails to include any of the critical local infrastructure projects that are critical to any bonding bill's success. Both Kaler and Malhotra said the money for bricks and mortar projects could help them avoid raising tuition.

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