Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, along with Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, have introduced a $1.5 billion bonding bill for infrastructure projects across the state, claiming that the bill will create 22,950 jobs.
“My proposals would put thousands of Minnesotans to work throughout our state, increasing economic opportunity and strengthening local economies,” said Gov. Dayton. “This bill will help deliver clean, reliable water to Minnesota communities, ensure our higher education institutions have the facilities they need to train our workforce, and build community projects across our state. I urge the Legislature to pass this Jobs Bill quickly, to support our local economies and create good jobs across the state.”
Among the multiple aspects of the proposal, two stand out for bridges and roads.
The Local Road Improvement fund proposes $70 million “to help cities, counties or townships with local road projects that will reduce traffic crashes, deaths, injuries and property damage. The funding also could be used to help pay the local share of improving state highways.”
The Local Bridge Replacement Program also would receive $70 million “to fund the rehabilitation or replacement of local bridges across the state.” This aims to help local communities “shoulder the cost” of the estimated $460 million needed over the next five years to replace the roughly one in 10 locally maintained bridges (longer than 10 feet) that are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
“Our top priority is to expand opportunity through an economy that works for everyone, everywhere in Minnesota,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. “This bill will invest in classrooms for our students, affordable housing for more Minnesotans, and expanded, improved operations for Minnesota farmers. These community construction projects will strengthen our local economies and improve opportunities for all Minnesotans.”
Other features of the proposal include:
- Lewis & Clark Regional Water System – Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith’s Jobs Bill would invest $11.5 million in the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System to deliver clean, reliable water to the City of Worthington to meet the growing needs of businesses and residents. This funding would complete the project and deliver water to more than 20,000 Minnesotans.
- Duluth Energy Efficiency Upgrades – The City of Duluth’s current downtown steam heating system is more than 80 years old, runs on coal, and needs significant upgrades to remain functional. The City will install a modern, efficient, closed-loop hot water system to reduce water, energy, and chemical consumption and allow for future integration of renewable energy. The Governor and Lt. Governor’s Jobs Bill includes a $21 million investment to help with construction of the new energy efficient system.
- Investing in Minnesota Ports – Minnesota’s commercial ports located on Lake Superior and the Mississippi River connect our businesses to markets across the country and around the world. The state’s Lake Superior ports alone generate $1.3 billion for the state’s economy and support over 6,200 jobs. To ensure our ports can continue to support Minnesota’s growing economy, Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith have proposed a $10 million investment to upgrade facilities, essential infrastructure, and expand port capacity in Duluth, Red Wing, Winona and St. Paul.
- Financial Assistance for Farmers – Minnesota’s Rural Finance Authority helps eligible farmers restructure existing debt, recover from disasters, expand their operations, and provides assistance to beginning farmers. After several years of low commodity prices, many Minnesota farmers will likely face a credit crunch in the spring, making it difficult for them to plant new crops and pay their day-to-day bills. Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith have proposed a $35 million investment in their Jobs Bill to fund the Rural Finance Authority, and ensure Minnesota Ag producers receive the assistance they need.
- Agricultural Utilization Research Institute Expansion – Scientists at Minnesota’s Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) play a critical role in developing new uses and opportunities for the agriculture products grown by Minnesota farmers. This year, the Governor and Lt. Governor have proposed a $690,000 investment to help build a developmental kitchen for food entrepreneurs at AURI’s facility in Crookston and add new equipment and technology upgrades at AURI’s Waseca and Marshall Facilities that will be used to develop new products from otherwise unusable Ag waste.
- Maintaining World-Class Higher Education Facilities – To ensure that Minnesotans have access to high-quality education facilities, Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith’s Jobs Bill would invest $135 million in basic infrastructure maintenance at the Minnesota State and University of Minnesota campuses statewide. The type of projects that would be funded include roof repairs, heating and cooling system repair and replacement, and electrical equipment repairs.
- Expanding Facilities for our Littlest Learners – School districts across Minnesota lack the space to house classrooms for preschool and kindergarten students. However, school levies can place a heavy burden on local property tax payers. In response, the Governor and Lt. Governor have proposed a $15 million investment in their Jobs Bill to help schools expand their facilities without burdening local property owners.
- Health Education and Research – To strengthen the University of Minnesota Medical School and Health Sciences, Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith’s Jobs Bill would invest $67 million in a health science education facility at the school. The renovated facility will include additional classrooms, new simulation centers, small group rooms, and an advanced technology-rich biomedical library to better prepare students for careers as doctors and other health professions.
- St. Cloud National Guard Readiness Center – More than 230 Minnesota National Guard soldiers are assigned to the St. Cloud Readiness Center. An additional 156 are expected to be assigned there as the facility transitions to become a battalion headquarters. However, the aging facility is inadequate for the National Guard’s needs, having received a “poor” facility ranking in 2014. In response, Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith’s Jobs Bill would provide $4.5 million to renovate and expand the St. Cloud Readiness Center. These resources also would fund basic maintenance, including updates to the heating and cooling system, interior painting, and sewer connection improvements.
- Minneapolis Veterans Home Truss Bridge Project – The bridge that carries Soldiers’ Home Road over Minnehaha Creek was built in 1908 to connect the Minneapolis Veterans Home to Minnehaha Park. However, the bridge now lacks the strength to safely support vehicle traffic, which limits access to the Veterans Home to a single entrance. The Governor and Lt. Governor have included a $7.9 million investment in their Jobs Bill to repair the historic bridge and improve access to the home.
- Moorhead Rail Grade Separation – An average of 85 trains pass through the City of Moorhead each day, many of them carrying crude oil from North Dakota. However, the current layout of the streets and train tracks makes it impossible to install railroad gates at the current intersection. Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith’s Jobs Bill would provide $42.3 million to separate motor vehicle and rail traffic, which will improve public safety and alleviate frequent traffic delays caused by passing trains.
- Prairie Island Rail Grade Separation – Approximately 40 trains per day traveling at up to 79 miles per hour pass through the area. A derailment or crash blocking Sturgeon Lake Road could have serious consequences because the road is Prairie Island’s only public roadway and evacuation route. The need is heightened by the presence of the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant and Lock and Dam Number 3. The Governor and Lt. Governor’s Jobs Bill would invest $14.8 million to separate Sturgeon Lake Road and the Canadian Pacific rail track, which will improve access to the island in the event of an emergency.
- Coon Rapids Rail Grade Separation – The Hanson Boulevard rail crossing in Coon Rapids is regularly blocked by trains awaiting clearance to enter the nearby Northtown Rail Yard. The blockage can cut the city in half – making it difficult for emergency vehicles to travel across town without detours. Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith’s Jobs Bill would provide $12.6 million to improve public safety and help commuters who travel through the intersection daily.
- Water Infrastructure – Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith’s Jobs Bill would invest $167 million to the fund water infrastructure to help communities rehabilitate wastewater and drinking water infrastructure systems, expand capacity, and meet water quality requirements.
- Buffer Reimbursements – The Governor and Lt. Governor’s Jobs Bill would provide $30 million in the Reinvest in Minnesota Reserve program, which compensates private landowners for granting permanent conservation easements and establishing wetlands or riparian areas on their lands. The funds will help Minnesotans implement the new buffer strip law passed last session.
- Flood Hazard Mitigation Grant Program – Spring flooding can have significant consequences for affected communities by deterring further economic development in the flood plain and putting existing structures at-risk. Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith have proposed a $6.5 million investment to complete flood risk reduction projects in Halstad, Montevideo, the Cedar River, and the Redpath Impoundment.
- Minnesota Security Hospital Improvements – The Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter is facing staffing shortages and increasingly challenging patients. The Governor and Lt. Governor have included a $70.3 million investment in their Jobs Bill to renovate and expand the facility, so that it is better able to serve patients with the most serious conditions. The renovated facility also would improve safety by eliminating blind spots and challenging sightlines that make it difficult for staff to account for all patients. The renovation would further improve safety by separating vulnerable adults from predatory populations.
- Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center – Few security features were incorporated into the design of the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center when it was built two decades ago. This limitation has been compounded by a changing patient population, with increasingly complex psychiatric conditions and histories of violent behavior. Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith have proposed a $2.3 million investment to install additional security cameras, upgrade the facility’s alarm safety and electronic key card system, and improve safety at nursing stations.
- St. Cloud Correctional Facility – To help protect public and employee safety, the Governor and Lt. Governor’s Jobs Bill would invest $19 million to complete a new intake and loading dock at the St. Cloud Correctional Facility. Their proposal also includes $4.4 million to repair the aging perimeter wall that poses a security concern and make other essential improvements at the prison.
More details are available at mn.gov/governor/issues/jobs-bill.