Senate bonding bill invests in Austin

Published 1:48 am Sunday, May 8, 2016

By Dan Sparks

State Senator, District 27

160502 POSTERS Bonding v2_pie chart 2The 2016 legislative session is in its final weeks, as our May 23 adjournment quickly approaches. My colleagues and I in the Senate have been working diligently to put together the final pieces we need to get our work done. Last week we passed our supplemental budget bill, which made targeted investments in our shared priorities and will address several areas of need.

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This week, we brought forward one of the final major priorities of the year, our bonding bill which would support capital improvement projects across the state. Our bill was a balanced approach to addressing areas of need in every corner of Minnesota, whether it’s our roads and bridges, water infrastructure, colleges and universities, or other public infrastructure needs our communities have.

The Senate Capital Investment Committee worked hard to put together a bill that could support statewide needs as well as local projects that are vitally important to communities. I want to thank them for their hard work, including the bonding tours they undertook across the state including stops in our district over the interim. These tours were vitally important in helping them get past numbers on a spreadsheet and see up close how important these projects are.

The bill contained several investments that would help Austin. The $600,000 in funding for the Austin Waterways project which would help with flood control and restore stream bank as well as improve community access to these local waters. There was also $1.740 million in funding to help in the maintenance and upkeep at Riverland Community College. And, the $20 million for Flood Mitigation would help the Cedar River Watershed District on their advance waterways plan. I’m thankful for the Capital Investment Committee including these important projects in the bill.

In addition to those projects, the bill included investments in statewide programs would help our area. Improving water quality and support for water infrastructure needs are of growing concern, especially in greater Minnesota. To address this, the Senate bill would have directed $55 million for wastewater, and $25 million for drinking water projects across the state – Austin’s clean water connection to the Turtle Creek area is on this list.

We also prioritized our infrastructure in the Senate bill. Roads and bridges are essential for the economic health of our state, and they receive a $150 million investment in local road improvement grants and for bridge replacement and rehabilitation. These grants help to support our local communities in addressing the growing pressures being put on our roads and bridges.

Bonding bills are crucial to economic development, and the Senate plan would create over 39,000 jobs in Minnesota, and support critical needs across the state. I am disappointed that our bill fell one vote short of passing, on a vote of 40-26. While 20 of my colleagues across the aisle had projects in the bill only one of them joined in voting for the bill.

While this is a setback, we know our bill supports priorities shared by many Minnesotans and needs that simply must be addressed. We will continue to negotiate on this legislation but I fear that there are projects in need of funding that will likely be left behind. It is also concerning that the House has yet to introduce their own bonding bill, and I urge them to soon so we can find the compromise needed for our state.

Without a bonding bill we will fall behind, whether on needed upkeep of public buildings or on critical infrastructure like our roads and bridges. Furthermore, we would lose out on an opportunity to spur economic development and invest in critical needs for many communities, especially rural ones. I will continue to work to find a solution in these final weeks that can address the needs of our community.