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Pioneer Editorial: A bonding bill should be debated

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opinion Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Last week Gov. Mark Dayton issued a unique proposal for a public works bonding bill -- setting $1 billion as the cap for bonding, and then leaving about half that amount to the Legislature for its own significant bonding proposals.

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The governor proposed $531 million in capital investment projects he deems most necessary to improve infrastructure. Much of that involved the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities campuses, including Bemidji State University projects to replace the Education Art Building roof and to replace the steam line to the American Indian Resource Center.

The governor's list involves "shovel-ready" projects that can be done right away, and create needed construction jobs to boost the economy. In that regard, they should be considered by the Republican-led Legislature, but we fear they will not.

Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, told a Bemidji Day at the Capitol delegation last week that the chairman of the Senate Capital Investment Committee which considers bonding and to which Carlson is a member, has no intentions of holding a committee meeting this session. Bonding bills are normally taken up in even years. The committee remains "on call" this session with no meetings slated.

In an effort at compromise, Gov. Dayton has left $470 million to the Legislature to assign to its own list of bonding priorities. If it wishes to not bond, then it should at least send forward the governor's list of important infrastructure projects.

The projects to be funded by $1 billion in bonding can create up to 28,000 private-sector jobs, based on a George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis study.

"Unlike previous bonding bills, in which governors identified all of the projects and legislators had to eliminate some of them to include their own, I have purposely left open almost half of my proposed billion dollars of bonding for legislators to insert their own projects," the governor says. "This approach is in keeping with the hand of cooperation that I have extended to the Legislature, inviting all of them to work in partnership with me to help create more jobs throughout our state."

It's a good offer, one that Republican legislative leaders should accept. In the process of providing need improvements to state assets, it would also create needed jobs in the building trades, which has unemployment rates of 50 percent in parts of Minnesota.

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