MN governor pushing for $1.5B infrastructure measure

Dive Brief:

  • Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton proposed a $1.5 billion bond deal on Wednesday to fund infrastructure and public works projects across the state, according to Reuters.
  • Dayton said the state had enough budgetary wiggle room and a high enough credit rating to secure favorable bond terms. He urged legislators to grant a quick approval so that construction on "vital" projects could begin this spring.
  • Dayton faces a tough path in securing lawmakers’ support on two fronts: Democrats lost their majority in the House, leaving both chambers in Republican control, and Dayton’s proposed package costs more than the one lawmakers rejected in 2016.

Dive Insight:

The projects in Dayton's proposed spending plan include repairs to roads and bridges, wastewater infrastructure improvements, college-campus maintenance and a new health science building at the University of Minnesota, according to The Star Tribune. Despite political challenges, however, the fact that many of the projects in Dayton's latest bill almost won approval last session has reportedly made the governor optimistic about the legislation's chances.

Last year, Democrats came up short by one vote in their efforts to win the legislative green light for a $1.8 billion bonding bill that would have paid for 300 statewide infrastructure and public works projects. Republicans were only willing to go into debt to the tune of $600 million for infrastructure spending. 

Included in the bill was $135 million in "gap" funding for a $1.86 billion light rail project that will connect Minneapolis to its southwest suburbs. In order to secure almost $900 million in federal funds, there had to be a significant local financial commitment. So, after state lawmakers rejected the infrastructure bill, local Minneapolis-area county and other governmental entities took it upon themselves to come up with the money on their own, all with Dayton’s backing. Republicans were incensed and accused the governor of trying to make an "end run" around the state Legislature.

Nevertheless, the project won federal approval last month and has moved forward with engineering. Officials plan to apply for a $928 million Federal Transit Administration grant in February, which they expect to receive in July. Heavy construction is scheduled to begin later this year, with passenger service scheduled for 2021.

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Filed Under: Infrastructure Legal/Regulation