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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published April 08 2013

Dayton bonding proposals range from small to large

ST. PAUL – Minnesota would borrow money a range of projects, from the relatively small, such as $775,000 to improve Clara City streets, to a massive one that all Minnesotans would notice, a $109 million Capitol building renovation, under the governor’s public works funding proposal.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday said he proposes borrowing and spending $750 million because he is trying to catch up after Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and GOP legislators stymied efforts in recent years to approve many of the projects in the Dayton plan.

Republicans, whose votes are needed to pass a public works bill, generally criticized the governor’s plan as being too spendy and not needed this year.

Dayton said his plan should produce 21,000 jobs, including sending many unemployed people back to work. He emphasized projects that are ready to begin.

“Many of them have been delayed for years and are needed to revitalize downtown business centers, modernize college classrooms and laboratories and improve infrastructure throughout our state,” he said of the projects.

Dayton’s bonding bill proposes $15 million for flood mitigation with a “Moorhead focus,” which is good news to Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland.

Voxland said the city has $14.7 million left in flood protection work to finish, which includes some levee work, another round of home buyout offers and other “miscellaneous odds and ends.”

The city has spent roughly $87 million since the record flood of 2009, with an estimated $30 million coming from local funds, including a special assessment on residents west of 20th Street last year.

Voxland said he wrote a letter to Dayton earlier this year assuring the governor that if $15 million was given to Moorhead, every penny would be used “expeditiously.”

“We’re confident that we could get the project totally done in 2013 if we had all the dollars,” Voxland said.

Voxland said if the full $15 million isn’t given to Moorhead this year, the city will prioritize the funding it receives and continue to seek state dollars in lieu of more special assessments.

Unlike most bills this year, Democrats who control the House and Senate will need Republican support to pass a bonding bill because the constitution requires a public works funding bill to receive three-fifths support in each chamber.

Republicans were not ready to give that support Monday.

“Tomorrow, House Democrats are expected to unveil a bonding list that seeks to borrow even more money than proposed by Gov. Dayton,” said Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood. “This continues a disturbing pattern from Democrats who seem to be competing to see who can raise taxes higher and spend the most money.”

Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said he does not see why a public works bill, funded by the state selling bonds, is needed this year. Lawmakers normally pass major bonding bills in years when they are not writing a budget; this year, they are considering a $38 billion, two-year budget.

Hann said he supports state Capitol renovation, but is not convinced a bonding bill is needed to begin the major portion of the project. And in any case, he said, the Dayton plan “is too big” overall.


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Forum reporter Erik Burgess contributed to this report

See this map for a breakdown of Dayton's proposal.