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Dayton proposed $775 million bonding bill, but nothing for Bemidji area

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton wants to borrow $775 million for public works projects such as build a Wadena wellness center, fund a water pipeline to make snow at a Lake Superior-area ski resort and fight invasive fish.

Much of the funding would go to state-run colleges and universities, with projects like remodeling areas used for agriculture and veterinary programs in Willmar and renovate a Worthington campus field house.

Dayton also would spend $20 million to flight floods.

However, there are no specific projects for the Bemidji area included in Dayton's proposal.

The Democratic governor Tuesday claimed his proposal, to be funded by the state selling bonds, would put nearly 22,000 Minnesota construction workers in jobs.

"These are public investments, but provide private-sector jobs," he said.

Republicans immediately criticized the plan.

"Gov. Dayton is following in the footsteps of Democrats in Washington by proposing stimulus packages under the banner of job creation and economic development," House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said in a statement. "In these economic times, a $775 million bonding bill that makes puts local spending projects on par with core infrastructure is unwise and ill-advised."

Zellers said the state should make fixing roads and existing buildings a priority, not starting new projects.

Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, agreed.

"Senate Republicans appreciate the governor's focus on jobs and getting Minnesota's economy back on track, but we fundamentally disagree on the overall philosophy," said Senjem, also bonding committee chairman. "The purpose and scope of the biennial bonding bill is to repair and build infrastructure, not to serve as stimulus or short-term jobs program. We must be prudent about placing debt burden upon our children and grandchildren."

Dayton complained that all Republicans do is criticize any job proposal he produces.

The governor's office reported that 27 percent of his proposal was for economic development projects, 22 percent for higher education, 18 percent for public safety and 17 percent for environment. The office also reported that 36 percent of the money would go to Twin Cities projects, with a like amount going to greater Minnesota and 28 percent for statewide projects.

Many of the projects were not specifically listed in Dayton's announcement, but here are some examples of ones he did spell out:

-- $3.6 million for a pipeline to move Lake Superior water up the Popular River Valley for several uses, including making snow at the Lutsen Mountains ski resort. Local governments would contribute $1.2 million.

-- $27 million for a St. Paul Saints baseball park, with a $20 million local match.

-- $4.75 million to build a regional wellness center in Wadena to replace facilities destroyed in a 2010 tornado. Local cost would be $4.5 million.

-- $20 million to fight floods, with local governments paying $5 million.

-- $12 million to fight the spread of Asian carp. The federal government would pay $2 million.

-- $13.8 million to remodel Ridgewater college's Willmar agriculture and veterinary technology program areas. It was one of few greater Minnesota college spending programs spelled out in Dayton's announcement.

-- $4.6 million for Worthington's Minnesota West Community and Technical College work to renovate and expand a field house.

Dayton's office said the $775 million in bonds to be repaid by state tax dollars would leverage other money from federal and local sources, as well as elsewhere, to make the total impact of his proposal $1.5 billion.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.