This week brought potential good news for our region, as Governor Mark Dayton announced his proposal for a capital investment bill that could bring hundreds of new jobs and advance repairs and redevelopment projects needed in our communities.
I agree with Gov. Dayton that capital investment – or bonding – is one of the best ways to invest in our state’s future. Many of the projects designated in the bill are essential needs for communities around the state, but the typical question is how and when to pay for them.
Supporting the projects with bonding dollars now means Minnesota will save millions of dollars by taking advantage of record-low interest rates and construction costs. As an added benefit, we’ll be adding hundreds of public- and private-sector jobs across the state in the very immediate future, providing a jump-start to the state’s economy.
Specifically, local bonding projects recommended in Gov. Dayton’s proposal include: HVAC and fire protection system replacements at Riverland Community College; Myre-Big Island State Park road repairs; Flood hazard mitigation grants for Austin; Wastewater infrastructure improvements in Myrtle; and Root River Trail bridge repairs in Fillmore County.
There also are opportunities for other projects in the area to take advantage of statewide lump-sum allocations for bridge replacement and road improvements. In designating these projects, Gov. Dayton was focused on “shovel- or paint-ready projects,” meaning those that can be started as soon as the ground thaws.
The governor’s bonding proposal recommends about $530 million in capital investment projects and asks the legislature to agree upon an additional $500 million, which we’ll be working on in the coming weeks.
I’m hopeful we’ll be able to work across party lines to get this jobs investment package passed soon. Some have made comments that bonding bills represent wasteful state spending, but I think the lawmakers with that opinion only need visit our area and see the good, needed work that’s been funded with previous bonding dollars. Our region would look very different had we not received flood hazard mitigation dollars from previous bonding bills. Or, if Edgewater Park in Albert Lea hadn’t received clean-up dollars, or if the Hormel Institute hadn’t received help with infrastructure projects. What would be wasteful is to disregard the opportunity to work across party lines to save millions of dollars on these projects and put hundreds of people back to work in the next few months.
Also at the Capitol this week, I met with two visitors for Minnesota Bankers Association Day at the Capitol, Mark Nibaur of Austin Utilities, Joe Swedberg from Hormel, the Southeast Area Labor Council and Partners, and members of the regional chapter of American Bikers for Awareness, Training and Education. I always enjoy meeting people from the district when you or your groups are visiting St. Paul, so please don’t hesitate to contact me when that happens. You may reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org; 651-296-9248; Room 19 State Office Building, St. Paul, MN 55155.