By Patrick Condon
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday that Minnesota could create thousands of new jobs by issuing $775 million in bonds for construction projects around the state.
Dayton released his bonding wish list at a news conference where he was flanked by construction workers in hard hats. He proposed $78 million for building projects on University of Minnesota campuses and $63.5 million on MnSCU campuses.
Also in Dayton’s proposal is $27 million to design a new minor-league baseball stadium for the St. Paul Saints in downtown St. Paul; more than $70 million for civic center projects in Rochester, St. Cloud and Mankato; $30 million for construction and repair of bridges; and a $25 million down payment on design and construction of a new light-rail line linking downtown Minneapolis with the city’s southwestern suburbs.
“My bonding proposal is about putting thousands of Minnesotans back to work,” Dayton said. His administration estimated it would create as much as 21,700 jobs, many of them temporary construction jobs but some permanent at newly constructed buildings. He proposed $13.5 million to expand research labs at the Hormel Institute in Austin, whose executive director estimated 120 permanent new jobs.
Dayton’s proposal is subject to legislative approval, and is sure to be a main discussion topic when lawmakers convene the 2012 session next week. The governor urged them to quickly act and approve a bonding package by the end of February, leaving plenty of time for planning that would get most projects underway as soon as the weather permits. Dayton said his proposal emphasized projects that were “shovel- or hammer-ready.”
But leaders of House and Senate Republican majorities took issue with Dayton’s attempt to tie the bonding bill, an even-year tradition at the Legislature, to job creation efforts. Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem and House Speaker Kurt Zellers said state borrowing should be tied to critical infrastructure needs such as repairing deteriorating roads and bridges and not “local pet projects,” according to information attributed to Zellers said in a news release.
“Rather than using debt as a jobs plan, Minnesota would be much better served if the governor turned his attention to creating a positive tax and regulatory climate in which job creators were more confident about expanding and investing in Minnesota,” Senjem said.
Still, Senjem — who also chairs the Senate’s Capital Investment Committee, responsible for the bonding bill — said he and his House counterpart would release their own bonding proposals in the next few weeks.