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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published April 03 2011

Minnesota Political Notebook: Dayton compares bonding with flood needs

ST. PAUL - Gov. Mark Dayton puts the need for Minnesota to fund public works projects up there with flood fighting.

The reason public works projects, funded by the state selling bonds, are so important is because they could put thousands of people to work, the Democratic governor said.

“They are in emergency conditions,” he said of the jobless.

In recent days, Dayton has renewed his push to invest $1 billion in public works projects ranging from new trails to fixing university roofs. He and other supporters claim that could result in 28,000 construction jobs.

“Putting people back to work is the ultimate solution to these economic problems,” Dayton said.

Republicans who control the Legislature don’t agree with Democrat Dayton.

Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch of Buffalo said she and her fellow Republicans think private business, not government, creates jobs. If government created jobs, she added, past bonding and other government programs would have left the Minnesota economy in better shape.

Still, House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, left the door open to a bonding bill that would include both flood prevention needs and traditional projects.

“I don’t think we ever said absolutely no,” he said, but quickly added that legislative attention first must continue to be focused on writing a two-year state budget.

House and Senate bonding committees have $55 million anti-flood proposals in front of them, but there is no indication when, or if, they will receive votes.

Mayors react

Duluth, St. Paul and Minneapolis mayors have told Republican legislative leaders that their budget cuts “amount to an attack on Minnesota’s economic engines.”

A letter Duluth Mayor Don Ness, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak wrote to leaders wasted no time attacking Republican budget ideas: “They hurt Minnesota’s economic future and serve to undo years of progress that we have made in the metro area, working cooperatively with the private sector, on regionwide economic growth.”

The trio said their cities are “disproportionately targeted” in several ways, including:

E Much state aid paid to cities is due to disappear in GOP plans.

E Education budget proposals would drain money from their cities and send it to other school districts.

E Cuts in transit funding would lead to increased bus fares.

E Since renters make up a higher percentage of residents in the cities, they will be hurt more by a reduction in a renter’s tax credit.

Dayton has said he opposes Republican cuts to the cities, all overwhelmingly Democratic communities.

Davis works for Forum Communications Co. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com