Sparks: Minnesotans deserve an answer on jobs proposals

Published 7:05 am Friday, May 4, 2012

By Dan Sparks

DFL-Austin, District 27

The Minnesota Vikings stadium has dominated the news lately and since the Vikings are a big part of our state’s heritage, that’s probably deserved. Whether for or against a new stadium, Minnesotans have a vested interest in the outcome of this debate; the media is appropriately reporting the ever-changing details.

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My concern, however, is that this big project is detracting from what this legislative session really should be about: Jobs. At the beginning of the session in January, the Republicans in charge of the legislature declared they would be intensely focused on job-creation policies to encourage the state’s economic recovery. Now, at the end of the session, we’re staring back at four months that have done absolutely nothing to create a new job in Minnesota.

It’s not for lack of trying. The Governor and the Senate both put forward a bonding bill that included funding for Austin’s Hormel Institute — a huge job-creator — as well as other important projects across that state. At the time I’m writing this column, it appears that only a very slimmed-down version of a bonding bill will be passed this year, nowhere near the level of investment we should be making in our economy and infrastructure.

The state has plenty of capacity to sell bonds to support projects without risking our credit rating or burdening the state’s budget. With record-low interest rates and construction costs, we should be bold and make needed investments in statewide projects. Investing in a broad array of projects today will bring jobs tomorrow, and that will mean a better economy for all of us.

I also supported the Governor’s job plan this year, which invested in targeted policies to support the hiring of veterans, the unemployed and recent graduates. His jobs proposal stalled in committee. It seems a pared down version of his tax-credit proposal might be included in a final tax bill, but that legislation also includes about $150 million in added General Fund debt for the state. Spending money we don’t have is no way to build our state’s economy.

The Vikings stadium project also would mean thousands of new jobs for our state, and that’s a big part of the project’s appeal. The construction will create work and the economic activity that a professional sports team — as well as the hundreds of other events held in the facility — provides jobs as well. For that reason, the Vikings stadium deserves a serious up-or-down vote by the House and the Senate. Lawmakers owe it to the public to finally support or oppose this major investment.

Right now, the tax bill, bonding bill and Vikings bill have been rolled together in one big, political mess. These issues, and especially the jobs that they are intended to support, are far too serious to subject to end-of-session game-playing. I am very hopeful that this session ends with honest attempts to pass compromise bills that do what this state needs right now: Invest in the jobs and in our workforce so this economy can get back on track.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me any time at:; 651-296-9248; Room 19 State Office Building, St. Paul, MN 55155.