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Stimulus funding gets division OK

Published (2/13/2009)
By Sue Hegarty
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When the federal stimulus funding arrives, the state’s Office of Energy Security would be one of the local project administrators responsible for doling out money to create jobs and improve living conditions for low to moderate income residents.

The House Housing Finance and Policy and Public Health Finance Division approved HF680, the recovery bill, as amended Feb. 11 on a divided vote.

Sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Kalin (DFL-North Branch), the bill establishes key principles for the use of the funds, including: money should be spent statewide; tracking of all expenditures; the amount of energy savings; number of jobs created; and the wages of those hired as a result of the federal funding.

No state funds are included in the bill, which relies on additional spending from utility companies that are mandated to reduce energy consumption, and corporations paying to help clean up polluted areas they helped cause, Kalin said.

An amendment successfully offered by Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings) deleted references to “sole-source contracting” for building and improvement projects.

The bill also gives preference to projects that employ people “at a living wage.” Kalin said trade workers and unions have said they won’t be able to meet the immediate need for workers. McNamara and Rep. Dan Severson (R-Sauk Rapids) said the language was too restrictive and could lead to geographical imbalance.

Division Chairwoman Rep. Karen Clark (DFL-Mpls) declined Severson’s motion to lay the bill over for the next meeting, saying that several other House committees are due to hear the proposal.

A companion bill, SF657, sponsored by Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon (DFL-Duluth), awaits action by the Senate Energy, Utilities, Technology and Communications Committee.

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