Last week, I testified before the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in favor of moving the long-delayed Enbridge Line 3 replacement project forward. This week, the PUC reissued the certificate of need and route permit for the project, triggering final construction permitting.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has announced the schedule for the 401 water quality certification and wastewater permit, including a 30-day public comment period starting March 2. MPCA has included two public hearings on the draft 401 permit, March 17 in Bemidji at the Sanford Center and March 18 in Grand Rapids at the Timberlake Lodge.
Coincidentally, Canada has experienced their second major crude oil unit train derailment in the past two months. The Canadian Transportation Authority has cut crude oil unit train speeds in half in the interest of public safety. Modern new pipelines remain the safest way to transport crude oil.
The Legislature is back in session this Tuesday (Feb. 11) and will adjourn on the first Monday after the third Sunday, which is May 18. We begin the session with a forecast $1.332 billion surplus over authorized spending for the current two-year state budget. The state also holds $2.359 billion in a reserve account to mitigate any future major downturn in the economy.
The major focus this session will be bonding which, in simple terms, the state borrows money by issuing bonds to pay for major capital investment construction projects. Those projects include asset preservation of state agency buildings, state parks and trails, University of Minnesota and the State college system buildings, water treatment infrastructure and many other public-asset related items.
The governor is proposing about $2.59 billion in total spending in this area. My DFL House colleagues are suggesting something approaching $3.5 billion in new bonding spending. The Senate majority has signaled support in the traditional range of slightly less than $1 billion in new state bonding.
Bonding bills require a three-fifths majority (60 percent) to pass, thus no one gets everything they want. Additionally, there is no constitutional requirement that a bonding bill be passed every year.
My general approach is cautious when it comes to borrowing money, including borrowing money on behalf of state taxpayers. I welcome your council as the details of the bonding proposals begin to take shape. More to follow as we begin to put pen to paper on a bonding bill.