Gov. Mark Dayton announced the “winners” of Minnesota’s $47.5 million bonding fund competition on Thursday but also used the occasion to lobby for a bigger bonding bill next session.
Nine economic development projects across the state will receive funding from the special grant program, with more than half of the funds — $25 million — going for a new regional ballpark in downtown St. Paul.
Other infrastructure projects include relocating sewer lines in Litchfield and building parking facilities in downtown Duluth and a public health and wellness center in Wadena.
The fund was established last session in an attempt by the Legislature to remove politics from the bonding process.
In the past, Dayton had criticized the pot of money as too small, and he renewed those concerns at his press conference.
He pointed to the 90 applications totaling $288 million as evidence of the need for further investment.
“This should be handled in an adequate bonding bill rather than through this kind of a backdoor method,” Dayton said. “It’s just a shame that those projects are going unfunded because of a lack of willingness from the Legislature to support a bonding proposal that was within the budget set by MMB [the Minnesota Management and Budget] before I ever showed up.”
In making the awards, the governor deviated only once from Department of Employment and Economic Development rankings. He dedicated $2 million for the Southwest Corridor light-rail line, which had scored low in the DEED ratings.
The governor said the Metropolitan Council, which is overseeing the project, is confident the $2 million grant — out of a $14 million request — is enough to keep Minnesota on the federal government’s radar for transit funding
Like the Met Council request, all funded projects received slightly less than they sought. St. Paul, for example, had asked for $27 million, half of the cost of the $54 million stadium that will house the St. Paul Saints. The city will get $25 million.
Dayton stressed that he used DEED’s assessments to make the final funding decisions, and he repeatedly assured reporters that the huge chunk for St. Paul wasn’t a concession or part of a deal that gave Minneapolis the new Vikings stadium and assistance for Target Center.
“That’s why I went strictly by the book with this DEED rating system because I didn’t want to be accused rightly or wrongly of being involved of the politics of it,” he said.
Dayton also said politics did not affect his decision to exclude Mankato, Rochester and St. Cloud projects that he supports. Those projects, he said, would be on the “top of my 2013 bonding proposal.”