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Stalled bonding projects would get green light again under House-approved bill

House Photography file photo
House Photography file photo

When it comes to a 2021 bonding bill, a little above the minimum may suffice.

Throughout this year’s regular session, Republicans on the House Capital Investment Committee advocated for a bill that would dot the i’s and cross the t’s on previously funded projects held up on technicalities or requiring extensions. Then, they suggested, the committee move on to advancing new infrastructure and construction requests … or not.

The committee moved forward during the regular session with a $1 billion bonding bill that also included the corrections, but it failed to come to a vote on the House Floor. Nor did a separate bill that dealt only with the modifications of previously approved projects.

But those corrections and modifications finally reached the floor Saturday.

Sponsored by Rep. Fue Lee (DFL-Mpls), SSHF52, as amended, was passed 103-21. The bill now moves to the Senate where it is sponsored by Sen. Tom Bakk (I-Cook).

“This much smaller bonding bill today focuses on modifications to the previously authorized bonding bill in October 2020 and also previous years,” Lee said, while adding that members “hadn’t seen the last” of the bonding proposals his committee heard this year.

In a statement, Lee said: “Interest rates remain low and Minnesota maintains its AAA bond rating, both factors that show we have the ability to produce a much more effective bill than the one we passed today. We shouldn’t take a year off in helping Minnesotans, especially as we’re structuring our recovery from the struggles of the past year. If we want our state to experience a full and equitable recovery from the pandemic and the resulting economic recession, we need to come together and pass a bill that creates jobs and delivers resources to all Minnesotans.”

However, the corrections bill doesn’t contain only corrections.

At Wednesday’s meeting of the House Ways and Means Committee, it was amended to include a conveyance of state land to Isanti County, a grant appropriation extension to Minneapolis for a Norway House conference and event center, and a $24 million General Fund appropriation for a competitive community capital project grant program.

But an amendment successfully offered by House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown), and supported by Lee, removed the grant program from the bill. Daudt said it should not be included in “a corrections bill,” but indicated it may still be included in another bill this special session.

Projects in the bill that could go forward after having their issues resolved include:

  • local road improvement grants for the counties of Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, McLeod, Olmsted, Otter Tail, Ramsey, Redwood, Swift and Wadena, and the cities of Baxter, Blaine, Dayton, Golden Valley, Inver Grove Heights, Rice Lake, Savage and Virginia;
  • water and wastewater infrastructure projects in Arden Hills, Aurora, Austin, Biwabik, Hoyt Lakes, Mahnomen, Mendota, Oronoco, South Haven, Spring Park, Vernon Center and White Township;
  • flood hazard mitigation projects in two counties, 21 municipalities and 12 watershed districts;
  • railroad grade separations in various parts of the state;
  • correctional facilities in St. Cloud and Togo;
  • the Anoka and St. Peter regional treatment centers;
  • property development in Crookston;
  • an Eagle Bend High School renovation;
  • Fergus Falls’ riverfront corridor;
  • a breakwater in Lake City;
  • Minneapolis’ Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery restoration;
  • Minneapolis’ Upper Harbor Terminal redevelopment;
  • Avivo’s career and employment center project in Minneapolis;
  • Ramsey County’s Southeast Asian Language job training facilities;
  • St. Joseph’s Jacob Wetterling Recreation Center;
  • a St. Louis River cleanup;
  • a visitor and interpretive center at St. Paul’s Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary;
  • improving the water quality of Seidl’s Lake in South St. Paul;
  • infrastructure at the Thief River Falls airport;
  • a maintenance building in Willernie; and
  • construction and renovation of public skate parks.

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