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Dayton’s $1B bonding plan targets regional projects, higher education

The long list includes familiar projects, such as civic centers in Rochester, Mankato and St. Cloud.

Dayton’s plan dedicates $100 million to a long list of familiar projects, including civic centers in Rochester, Mankato and St. Cloud, as well as other downtown revitalization efforts across the state.
MinnPost photo by James Nord

Gov. Mark Dayton’s latest bonding plan — totaling nearly $1 billion — again calls on lawmakers to fund regional centers across Minnesota and to invest in the state’s higher education systems.

Dayton’s plan, announced Wednesday, dedicates $100 million to a long list of familiar projects, including civic centers in Rochester, Mankato and St. Cloud, as well as other downtown revitalization efforts across the state.

The proposal (PDF) totals $986 million.

It also includes the remaining $126 million for upgrades necessary to complete the ongoing renovation of the state Capitol building.

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Higher education comes out as the biggest winner in the governor’s plan with about $233 million in proposed investments. The funding plan includes $80 million for asset preservation at colleges across the state, plus proposed laboratory improvements at the University of Minnesota and many other projects.

But Dayton was pragmatic about getting his funding requests through the Legislature.

The governor criticized the most conservative Republicans who have winnowed or blocked many of his proposed capital investments over the last three years.

He again argued that government has a place in creating jobs and economic prosperity.

Dayton said Republicans, who controlled the Legislature during the first two years of his term, made “serious mistakes” by not supporting infrastructure development to create jobs.

Republicans, however, had a different view.

“Today’s wish list is another example of Governor Dayton asking hardworking Minnesotans to overpay for things they would never buy for their families or small businesses,” said Rep. Matt Dean, the Republican bonding lead, in a statement.

Now, even with DFL majorities in both chambers, Dayton still needs some Republican votes to get the three-fifths legislative support needed to pass an infrastructure package.

“Hopefully we can get some independent thinking from those two caucuses,” Dayton said of House and Senate Republicans.

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The bonding bill likely will be a bargaining chip to close out the session, Dayton said. The 2014 election year could help the proposal’s chances, with lawmakers able to bring large projects to their districts.

“We’ll mount the same public support,” Dayton said of rallying local officials in a bipartisan way for projects across the state.

Rep. Alice Hausman, a DFLer from St. Paul who has led House bonding efforts, praisedthe governor’s plan: “This is an excellent start to the conversation, and it’s extremely encouraging the governor has included many projects that have been in the queue for some time.”

Dayton said he was recommending only about a third of the $3 billion in bonding requests he received. If re-elected, Dayton said he would offer another bonding bill next year.

According to Dayton’s calculations, the $1 billion investment would create more than 27,000 jobs.

The governor and Minnesota Management and Budget Jim Schowalter said the state would be well within the state’s debt limit, even with proposed the new investment.

“There is a cost to going higher,” Dayton said. “The tradeoff is if you don’t do projects, you don’t put people back to work.”

Questions on running mate

After the bonding announcements, Dayton also answered questions about Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon’s decision to not run for re-election with him. The governor said he didn’t ask Prettner Solon to stay or to go.

He said he hopes to have a new running mate “shortly” and has had some informal discussions on the subject. Assistant Senate Majority Leader Katie Sieben of Newport is one rumored front-runner.

Having a woman on his ticket would be a “very important statement,” he said, describing his likely running mate as someone happy to travel across Minnesota and be the people’s conduit to St. Paul.

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The governor also expressed disappointed that Prettner Solon’s role didn’t match up with either of their expectations.

He seemed open to expanding the role of the office: “I think it’s an important position. I think it can be a more important position.”