ST. PAUL – A bill that would fund construction projects throughout Minnesota has been approved by the Minnesota House of Representatives, but the legislation was met with disapproval from State Representative Paul Torkelson (R-Watonwan County).
“According to state economists, a $200 million bonding bill greatly exceeds what the state can afford while facing a $6.4 billion budget deficit,” Torkelson said. “I could support a moderate, properly sized bill that tackles true emergency projects, but other than the meager amount allocated for flood mitigation, this bill did not meet that threshold.”
Torkelson noted that of the $200 million proposed, only $58 million would be spent on projects in rural Minnesota. He was also disappointed by the priorities in the bill. While only $13 million is allocated for flood mitigation – far less than what the Red River Valley needs – nearly $6 million would be spent at the school on the Red Lake Indian Reservation. To date, $60 million has spent on Red Lake Schools.
Torkelson also said that Minnesota has more than $1 billion in past bonding projects that have not started yet, and wonders why the state needs to put $200 million more on the state’s credit card.
“This is being sold as a jobs bill, but so were the last three bonding bills,” Torkelson said. “When we have more than $1 billion just waiting to be spent, it seems strange that we can’t just utilize some of those funds that we’re already paying interest on in order to put more people to work.”
A House/Senate conference committee will now meet to create a compromise bonding plan that can be approved by both bodies. Once that occurs, it will be sent to Governor Pawlenty for his signature.