MN governor signs $988M infrastructure bill
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed a $988 million infrastructure bonding bill on Tuesday, a measure that will fund projects as varied as prisons and affordable housing, according to the Pioneer Press.
The bill had broad support in both the state House and Senate, Finance & Commerce reported, and earmarks funds for economic development ($101 million), transportation ($255 million), water infrastructure ($116 million), higher education ($212 million) and human services ($100 million), as well as other types of construction projects.
Dayton originally pushed for a $1.5 billion bonding bill in January. While this measure falls short of that proposal, the current bill is more than the $600 million in debt that Republicans previously said they would be willing to approve.
The bill also addresses the contentious $1.86 billion Southwest Light Rail Transit project, which will connect Minneapolis and its southwest suburbs. An earlier rendition contained language that would have prevented construction altogether, but that was eliminated. The final bill pins the responsibility of operating costs on local agencies.
A previously failed $1.86 billion bill — by one vote — contained $135 million for the light-rail project, an amount that would have filled a critical funding gap. Republicans were adamantly opposed to providing any financial support to the project, so Minneapolis-area agencies gathered the necessary financial commitments to do the deal themselves. This move qualified the project for a $929 million Federal Transit Administration grant, but drew the ire of Republicans who were upset that the local groups had disregarded their decision not to fund the rail.
The fight over the project did not stop there. In February, Minnesota Republican lawmakers introduced a resolution that would have authorized them to divert FTA grant money away from the rail project and to state road and bridge projects instead. Even though lawmakers most likely realized that such project-specific grants could not be transferred in that manner, some said they would rather lose the money than see it go toward the Southwest rail.
As experts predicted, the FTA rejected that proposal, explaining to lawmakers that agency grants could only be utilized for major transit projects, not a portfolio of state infrastructure work.
- Pioneer Press Get ready for some construction cranes. Mark Dayton signs $990M infrastructure bill
- Finance & Commerce Minnesota legislators pass $988 million bonding bill
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