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Minnesota Legislature

Spending stimulus money

Published (2/20/2009)
By Mike Cook
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The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, signed Feb. 17 by President Obama could provide more than $1 billion in fully funded airport improvements across the country.

However, state law requires that airport projects receiving federal, state or local funding shall have at least a 5 percent local contribution.

Rep. Bernie Lieder (DFL-Crookston) has a simple solution to the problem — HF547.

The House Transportation Finance and Policy Division approved the bill Feb. 17, and sent it to the House Finance Committee. A companion, SF482, sponsored by Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope), awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

The bill would exempt airports from the 5 percent requirement in cases where the project is funded before June 30, 2011, through a federal economic stimulus program. A fiscal note indicates no cost to the state because it is assumed projects undertaken with the federal money would not otherwise be started at the time.

Rep. Mary Liz Holberg (R-Lakeville) is concerned that some planned projects would no longer need a local match, but that some lower “in the pipeline” still might need a local match depending on available stimulus funds. She wants to ensure that the federal money is evenly spread around among airports, so that everybody gets some work done without a local match.

Ray Strege, a principal with Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc., said a federal task force is to pick the projects to be funded with stimulus dollars and provide oversight.

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