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Gov. Dayton Pitches $1 Billion Bonding Bill

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO/AP) – Gov. Mark Dayton is pitching almost $1 billion in bonds for the state to take on to fund improvements in areas like higher education and infrastructure in Minnesota.

Dayton introduced his proposal for a $986 million bonding bill for the state in the 2014 budget Wednesday.

The bill is a long way from passing and will surely face much opposition when the session begins in more than a month, but the governor says he’s hoping to get lawmakers on board with his plan.

More than one-quarter of this money would go to fund improvements in higher education buildings at the University Of Minnesota-Twin Cities and other campuses.

“We cannot have a world-class education system without first-class facilities,” Dayton said.

Development in downtown areas — in Rochester, Mankato, St. Cloud and the Twin Cities — was also a significant goal for Dayton. He said that development trickles out to surrounding areas and brings with it successful business and jobs. He also said this will create more than 27,000 jobs from the improvement projects.

The biggest single project on Dayton’s list is $126 million to complete the yearslong restoration of the state Capitol.

The wish list, which he outlined at a news conference, was pulled from nearly $3 billion in infrastructure requests put before his administration.

Many of these are repeat requests that have run into opposition in the past. Dayton said it will be a challenge passing all or some of this bill, especially during an election year.

Dayton will now go to table with Republicans and try and get as much passed as possible in coming months.

Majority House and Senate Democrats would need to find eight House Republicans and four Senate Republicans to pass a bonding bill, if they don’t have any defections in their own ranks.

In response to the belief that issues of bonds and state debt can present a challenge to get voters on board, Dayton assured that debt monitoring companies for states say this wouldn’t put a huge strain on our credit rating.

There were some notable omissions from the proposal. Dayton didn’t recommend any money for a new light rail line connecting Minneapolis and its western suburbs. The governor said he didn’t want to tie up $125 million on a project facing considerable obstacles; he said he is exploring other funding mechanisms for the project.

Dayton’s plan is also devoid of money for development of the state park on Lake Vermilion, a priority of Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, who is from that area. Dayton’s family owns property on the lake, so he has recused himself from park decisions, but he said he would sign a bill that included money for building campgrounds and park amenities.

Minnesota, like most states, sells bonds to pay for infrastructure. That type of borrowing is akin to a home mortgage, with principal and interest paid back over 20 to 30 years. In all, Minnesota currently has about $6.2 billion in outstanding bonds.

Is it possible for a construction bill to create 27,000 jobs?

Dayton cited George Mason University research showing that $1 billion in non-residential construction creates about 28,000 jobs.

But it’s hard to attribute those kinds of job numbers to other construction projects, including the Vikings stadium.

There does, however, seem to be an economic impact.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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