Gov. Mark Dayton is asking the Legislature to pass a capital investment bill with $775 million in general obligation bonding.
Unveiled at a press conference, the DFL governor said the proposal is about putting thousands of Minnesotans back to work and investing in the future of the state.
Dayton argues that a bonding bill at this level would create 21,700 jobs throughout the state, almost all in the private sector.
Jim Schowalter, commissioner of Minnesota Management & Budget, said that when combined with all other funding — including local matches and federal funds — the total proposal equates to more than $1.4 billion in investments. Traditionally, a larger capital investment law is passed in even-numbered years.
“Interest rates are low, the need for these investments is high and Minnesota needs the jobs,” Dayton said. He is urging the Legislature to pass the bonding bill by the end of February to enable many of the projects to begin in 2012. “Unemployed Minnesotans need jobs now, not next year.”
In a statement, House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) accuses Dayton of playing Washington-style politics by “proposing stimulus packages under the banner of job creation and economic development. In these economic times, a $775 million bonding bill that puts local spending projects on par with core infrastructure is unwise and ill-advised.”
Of the governor’s proposal, 36 percent of funding would be for projects in the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area, 36 percent in Greater Minnesota and 28 percent would go for statewide programs.
By investment area: 27 percent is for economic development, 22 percent for higher education, 18 percent for public safety, 17 percent for environment, 9 percent for transportation and 7 percent for veterans and military affairs.
Among the aspects of Dayton’s proposal are:
- $81.2 million for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, including $17.5 million to construct a biosciences and health careers center at North Hennepin Community College;
- $78 million for the University of Minnesota, including $54 million to renovate a steam plant facility on the Minneapolis campus to a multi-utility power plant to serve the campus and reduce its carbon footprint by 10 percent;
- $42 million to build or improve wastewater treatment plants and drinking water infrastructure;
- $27 million to build a 7,500-seat ballpark in downtown St. Paul to house the St. Paul Saints and be used for amateur sports;
- $26 million to construct a state emergency operations center and Homeland Security and Emergency Management office in Arden Hills;
- $25 million for local bridge replacement;
- $25 million to renovate Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis; and
- $25 million toward construction of the Southwest Corridor Light Rail Transit Line. More bonding dollars would be required for this project in future years.
Dayton, a proponent of vibrant downtowns, also funds three civic center projects: an expansion of the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester ($35 million), an expansion of the Mankato Civic Center ($15.1 million) and expansion of the St. Cloud Civic Center ($10.1 million).
A full list of projects is available online.
“Fixing our deteriorating roads that people drive every day should be a priority over sending millions of dollars to staff up for nonexistent light rail lines, to pay for sculpture gardens and perennial greening, or other local pet projects,” Zellers said.
Dayton said the ballpark was the City of St. Paul’s top request, the higher education proposals pretty much reflect the system requests and that the rail line funding is important because the region needs to continue lines to make a viable rail system.