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Governor seeks $1.5 billion for ‘urgently needed’ investments

Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans presents the Dayton administration’s $1.5 billion bonding proposal for the 2018 legislative session at a Tuesday news conference. Photo by Andrew VonBank

As he begins his final year in office, Gov. Mark Dayton is once again focused on funding what he says are “urgently needed” projects around the state, releasing a $1.54 billion bonding proposal Tuesday that targets infrastructure, as well as facility maintenance and improvements at Minnesota’s public colleges and universities.

The proposal calls for $998 million for projects to maintain and improve state infrastructure, including upgrades to state buildings, affordable housing construction and repairs to water infrastructure.

Dayton also asks for $543 million to fund facility renewal and improvement projects at public colleges and universities around the state.

The proposal would create nearly 23,000 jobs and fund more than 218 projects statewide, the governor said in a statement, adding that although important infrastructure investments have been made during his time in office, they have not kept pace with the “enormous need” across Minnesota.

MORE Full descriptions of all projects in the governor’s proposal

With Dayton battling a cold, Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans outlined the proposal during a briefing at the Capitol. Frans said the recommendations were “robust” but that the governor had a “sense of urgency” and enthusiasm” about them.

Frans said the funding was a “smart investment” in the state’s fiscal health.

“Now is the time to make substantial investments in our state’s future,” Dayton said in a statement. “My public works proposal would make significant, needed investments to provide world-class educations for our students, guarantee clean, affordable water for more of our communities, and ensure our state has the infrastructure necessary to grow and compete in the modern economy.”

Lawmaker reaction

Dayton’s proposal received a cool reception from House Republicans.

Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City), who chairs the House Capital Investment Committee, said in a statement the bill faces “an uphill battle” and fails to include “any of the critical local infrastructure projects that are critical to any bonding bill’s success.”

Frans said communities across the state had submitted proposals for $858 million in local bonding projects and the governor welcomes working with the Legislature as it reviews and considers which of those projects merit investment.

Urdahl noted that Dayton’s proposal calls for $600 million more than was planned for in 2017 November Budget and Economic Forecast, which projects a $188 million deficit for the current biennium, and assumed a bonding authorization of $800 million during this year’s legislative session.

WATCH MMB Commissioner Myron Frans unveils the governor's bonding recommendations

“Last session, the Legislature passed a $1 billion, geographically balanced bonding bill which focused heavily on infrastructure and transportation needs,” Urdahl said. “Any bill that takes shape this year will need to follow that same blueprint.”

House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) said in a statement she is encouraged by the governor’s recommendations and, with a potential rise in interest rates looming, it is important to make bonding investments now.

“I look forward to working together to pass a robust bonding bill this session that will create jobs and improve infrastructure in Minnesota,” Hortman said.

The Legislature passed a $987.9 million bonding law to fund public works projects around the state during last year’s special session. That funding fell short of the $1.5 billion bonding proposal Dayton made in January 2017 that focused heavily on improving water quality as well as roads and bridges. But it was significantly more than the $600 million bill approved last year by the House Capital Investment Committee.

Although odd-numbered years often produce smaller bonding bills, as lawmakers focus on establishing the state’s budget, 2017 was a somewhat unique due to the failure to pass a bonding bill in 2016.

Some of the largest expenditures in Dayton’s 2018 proposal include:

  • $299 million to help maintain and improve existing infrastructure at the University of Minnesota through projects such as roof repairs, heating and cooling system replacements and electrical equipment upgrades;
  • $243 million for the Minnesota State system for classroom and facility improvement projects at its the 30 colleges, seven universities and 54 campuses around the state;
  • $171 million to the Department of Natural Resources for asset preservation and improvements, accessibility upgrades at state parks, flood hazard mitigation and dam safety upgrades;
  • $167 million to make water-quality improvements by modernizing clean water infrastructure, protecting against contamination and supporting the steps farmers are taking to address the issue;
  • $115 million to improve access to safe, affordable housing;
  • $105 million to the Metropolitan Council for a bus garage in Minneapolis and development and building of regional express bus and busway corridors;
  • $63.1 million to the Department of Corrections for asset preservation, facility upgrades and programs; and
  • $39.9 million to the Department of Agriculture for facility improvements and Rural Finance Authority Loans.

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