ST. PAUL — Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday released a $1.5 billion borrowing bill that includes funding for several St. Cloud-area building projects, including renovations to the state prison, Minnesota National Guard armory and a student health center at St. Cloud State University.
The DFL governor wants the Legislature to pass a bonding bill early in the session so the building projects can get underway in the 2017 construction season. But Republicans controlling both houses of the Legislature aren’t likely to embrace the bill, which is slightly larger than the one Dayton proposed last year.
In a conference call with reporters, Dayton said the bill is necessary to make up for last year, when the Legislature failed to reach final agreement on a bonding package. Normally lawmakers pass a large public works bill in even-numbered years.
“Time is of the essence to make up for that loss of a bonding year, and get these projects ready to go starting this spring and summer construction season and then be able to give the communities the benefit of the jobs and the benefits of these capital investments,” the governor told reporters.
The bill includes funding for new buildings on college campuses, upgrades to water infrastructure, added prison beds, rail safety improvements, local road and bridge repairs and expansion of early childhood facilities. Among the Central Minnesota projects:
- $19 million to complete a new intake unit and loading dock at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-St. Cloud.
- $4.4 million to repair the aging perimeter wall around the St. Cloud prison.
- $4.5 million for renovation of the aging St. Cloud armory, known as the St. Cloud Readiness Center, where an additional 150 soldiers are expected to be assigned as the facility transitions to become a battalion headquarters.
- $1.3 million for Higher Education Asset Preservation and Renovation funds for St. Cloud State University, which can be used to extend the useful life of buildings through mechanical, plumbing, electrical, roof and other repairs.
- $740,000 in asset preservation funds for St. Cloud Technical & Community College.
- $12.4 million to convert the vacant 85-year-old Eastman Hall at St. Cloud State into a student health services building.
- $3.5 million to develop a fisheries management station at Mille Lacs Lake, including a fish hatchery, to address the lake’s declining walleye population.
- $3.5 million for an oil train derailment and pipeline safety training center for emergency responders at Camp Ripley near Little Falls.
- $3.85 million for public infrastructure to help the city of Melrose rebuild after a fire in September damaged eight apartments and six businesses along Main Street. The proposal includes funding to help the city expand its municipal electric substation loop, which would support the expansion of Jennie-O, the community’s largest employer.
- $250,000 for a study of how to expand use of the St. Cloud Regional Airport.
- $300,000 for roof repairs at the Eagle’s Healing Nest veterans recovery home in Sauk Centre.
Dayton said the bill would create about 23,000 jobs and benefit communities throughout the state. He said the level of borrowing is within the state’s financial capacity. The bill would add about $113 million in debt service to the state’s budget for the next two years.
“These projects are vital to the future of Minnesota … . It would be just a shame if we fail to seize that opportunity and fail to make these investments in ways that are going to benefit Minnesota in years to come,” Dayton said.
Republican lawmakers voiced some skepticism about the size of Dayton’s proposal. Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Acton Township, who chairs the House Capital Investment Committee, said the Legislature’s top responsibility this session is to set a new two-year state budget.
Urdahl said he will work in good faith to review projects, but doesn’t anticipate much support among lawmakers for a $1.5 billion bill.
Follow Kirsti Marohn on Twitter @kirstimarohn or reach her by phone at 255-8746.
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