Gov. Mark Dayton greets construction workers
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Governor Mark Dayton knows the value of human props, and when it comes to pitching a new public works construction bonding bill, it's hard to beat a room full of people in hard hats.
Dozens of laid off construction workers flanked Gov. Dayton Tuesday when he introduced his 2012 bonding plan, which calls for borrowing $775 million through the sale of general obligation bonds.
"Skeptics can divide and doubt, but the indisputable fact is that this bill would put many thousand Minnesotans to work," Dayton told reporters at the State Capitol.
While some will quibble with the figure he gave -- 21,000 jobs -- the larger hurdle for Dayton is that the Republicans, who control both chambers of the Minnesota Legislature, have never warmed up to the idea of casting a public works construction bill as a jobs bill.
They view those jobs as temporary, and would rather focus on streamlining business regulations and lowering income taxes for business owners and individuals. Republicans feel less urgency this session because they agreed to a $500 million bonding bill last July, as part of a deal with Dayton to end the stalemate that led to the state government shutdown.
One sure lightning rod for conservatives is Dayton's inclusion of $25 million for the Southwest Light Rail project, linking downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie and several suburbs in between.
"Fixing our deteriorating roads that people drive every day should be a priority over spending millions of dollars to staff up for nonexistent light rail lines," House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, wrote in response to Dayton's bonding bill.
Rep. Ryan Winkler, D-Golden Valley, applauded Dayton's move to include state funding for the first phase of the transit line.
"With the growing population we need to provide more choice for people in how they get around," Rep. Winkler told KARE.
"Big cities have mass transit. That's how people move. You can't enough highways, you can't build enough bridges to eliminate traffic congestion."
Winkler said he was encouraged by the fact that the three largest chambers of commerce in Minnesota -- Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Twin West -- all issued statements supporting that part of Dayton's wish list.
A new regional baseball stadium in the Lowertown neighborhood of St. Paul, designed as a new home for the St. Paul Saints, also made the bonding list to the tune of $27 million.
Other bonding requests sure to encounter some resistance include renovation of the Nicollet Mall pedestrian zone of downtown Minneapolis, upgrading the Minneapolis sculpture garden to make it more accessible to persons with disabilities, and repairing the dolphin tanks at the Minnesota Zoo.
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