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Dayton proposes $1.5 billion bonding bill

By Jonathan Avise
Gov. Mark Dayton addresses the news media Jan. 3 from the Governor's Reception Room in the State Capitol. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Updated 1:36 p.m.

Gov. Mark Dayton is proposing a $1.5 billion capital investment bill for 2017 that he says would create more than 22,000 jobs across the state.

But after lawmakers failed last year to agree to a smaller bonding package, the governor’s plan would seem likely to meet opposition from a Republican-controlled Legislature.

Dayton’s proposal, released Wednesday, is nearly identical to the plan he put forward a year ago. It would borrow heavily to invest in a state construction program to rehabilitate drinking water and wastewater infrastructure across the state; make rail and pipeline safety upgrades; and invest in local road improvement and bridge replacement programs.

“This is making up for last year,” Dayton said on a conference call with statewide media. “This is finishing the work. ... Most of these projects were approved by the House or the Senate, or both, and they didn't reach me for a signature. So this is catch-up. That's why it's so vital to be [passed] in the first month of the legislative session.”

House and Senate leaders did not pass a $1 billion compromise bonding bill during a frantic end to the 2016 legislative session, and then failed to strike an agreement on capital investment across months of special session negotiations with Dayton during the summer and fall.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) said last month he doubted a bonding bill would find the necessary support to pass in 2017. This year, the first of the two-year legislative biennium, is traditionally the budget-setting session. The biennium’s second year is, generally, when lawmakers pass large capital investment bills.

Dayton expressed hope that a Legislature with 44 new members would be able to find agreement and pass a large-scale bonding package.

“I think when they take a look at these projects and the benefit in their district, regions ... I hope they'll recognize the importance of this,” he said.

Highlights of the governor’s borrowing proposal include:

  • $135 million for infrastructure maintenance at Minnesota State and University of Minnesota campuses;
  • $70.3 million to renovate and expand the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter;
  • $70 million for cities, counties and townships to make road improvements aimed at reducing traffic crashes, deaths and property damage;
  • $69.7 million for projects to separate rail and motor vehicle traffic at rail crossings in Moorhead, Prairie Island and Coon Rapids;
  • $35 million for the Rural Finance Authority, a low-interest loan program for Minnesota farmers; and,
  • $33.2 million to fund a new State Emergency Operations Center in Arden Hills

The governor’s office said 35 percent of the investments would be made in Greater Minnesota, with another 35 percent targeted toward statewide projects. Bonding bills require a three-fifths supermajority of both the House and Senate to pass. 

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