Dayton eyes $1.5B in public construction

Dayton wants his final bonding bill to be a big one

"My public works proposal would make significant, needed investments to provide world-class educations for our students, guarantee clean, affordable water for more of our communities, and ensure our state has the infrastructure necessary to grow and compete in the modern economy", Dayton said in a statement. It costs an average of 70 percent more to fix a structure in "poor" condition than maintain a building in "fair" condition.

The University of Minnesota would get $299 million in Dayton's proposal and the Minnesota State system would receive $243 million.

"I am pleased the governor released an aggressive bill", said Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St.

The state borrows money by selling construction bonds to pay for the expensive infrastructure projects in bonding bills.

Interim Chancellor Devinder Malhotra said Minnesota State's 54 campuses in 47 communities would be able to improve workforce training with the funds.

The plan received immediate pushback in the Republican-controlled legislature, which has been battling Dayton over his veto past year of funding for the House and Senate.

Dayton's office said the state has the bonding capacity and high credit ratings to support the plan.

"We do believe that this bonding project is sustainable, given the people in Minnesota available to fund these projects and to work on these projects".

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The money for those payments was included in the almost $130 million in legislative funding Dayton vetoed from the fiscal 2018-19 budget in May in an effort to pressure lawmakers to revise tax measures that he said will harm the state's financial stability.

Already, Dayton's bill is facing pushback from Republicans for the limited number of road and bridge projects, an element that's often critical for obtaining GOP votes.

Last year, lawmakers approved around $120 million of the University's $245.1 million bonding request.

The House bonding chairman, Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, said the Dayton plan would have "an uphill battle", in part because he did not include local projects. But the $800 million bond assumption included in the November budget forecast is a good starting point for discussions, he said. "Last session, the Legislature passed a $1 billion, geographically balanced bonding bill which focused heavily on infrastructure and transportation needs".

"Gov. Dayton's public works proposal supports improvements on our campuses, helping to reduce a backlog in deferred building maintenance while making strategic investments to renew facilities", Kaler said. Any bill that takes shape this year will need to follow that same blueprint.

Legislators are traveling the state now to vet proposed bonding projects in communities. "What are the local projects that they want to invest in", Frans said.

Dayton's bonding bill excludes about $858 million in local projects his office said it received, but Frans said they are open to working with the Legislature to include some of those in a final, negotiated package. "They are not in now, but our goal is to consider those as we go forward".

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