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'The time to invest is now': Walz proposes $2.2B bonding bill as part of special session priority to build a stronger, more equitable economy

Tommy Wiita
Updated: June 17, 2020 02:20 PM
Created: June 16, 2020 09:48 AM

On Tuesday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz discussed his Local Jobs and Projects Plan as part of his special session priority to build a stronger, more equitable economy. 

Walz's administration proposed a $2.2 billion bonding bill during the press conference. He noted that it will take a supermajority to pass so collaboration is a must between both political parties. GOP Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said last week he may consider going as high as $1.35 billion, according to KSTP Political Correspondent Tom Hauser. 

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"I think the sense of optimism that will start to spread across Minnesota will feed on itself," Walz said. "This is investments in Minnesota and now is the time to do it."

— Tom Hauser (@thauserkstp) June 16, 2020

Walz advises lawmakers to not waste the work of many county commissioners, mayors and others' work done on the bill that took years to put together, meaning he does not want the overall number to be strayed too far away by lawmakers. He added he wants this to be done for the good of Minnesotans, rather than lawmakers taking shots at each other. Walz says he will continue to work with lawmakers and stay as long as necessary to get it done.

Even with more businesses currently opening up, Walz said it's far from over regarding the battle with COVID-19. Community spread is still a concern, as Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm noted in Monday's MDH briefing. 

Regarding the special session equitable economy and police accountability and reform remaining the main goals, they are still a work in progress. Walz noted President Donald Trump signed an order on police accountability earlier Tuesday. 

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Walz said he traveled around the state and came up with his bonding proposal at the beginning of the year. He notes it's been sitting in the legislature awaiting action and he's happy to see the Senate finally starting to act on it. Walz advises that the state start to invest in bonding now so later on, things are in better shape and can provide some financial security instead of needing more help. 

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan adds that "investment now is critically needed."

"Emergency centers and buildings like fire departments are in dire need of 21st-century upgrades to keep providing safety to communities," she said. "The time for a robust bonding bill is right now and we must act."

Flanagan noted that recent events since George Floyd's death didn't eliminate the need for those investments, instead emphasizing a need for them. 

Sean Dowse, Mayor of the city of Red Wing, showed support for a larger bonding bill to help the community recover from the recession and continue to build going forward into the future. 

Dowse said a local railroad crossing for Red Wing is considered an essential need. He added that many other communities need various forms of help and says a large bonding bill will bring much-needed jobs to communities during this time. 

"In the long-term, a robust bill will provide crucial infrastructure we need to survive," Dowse said to reporters Tuesday afternoon. 

To stimulate the economy, Dowse believes a large bonding bill is one of the best tools they have to do so. 

An assistant business manager and financial secretary at IBEW Local 92, Jennifer Mudge, said Minnesota construction workers, their families and communities benefit from construction through the bonding bill and it's needed now. 

Mudge said it comes down to three topics: economy (recovering from COVID-19 recession and unemployment), recovery (after recent unrest to rebuild), and jobs (bonding bill would create good-paying jobs). Mudge added that after current construction projects finish, they expect money to be tighter and far fewer construction projects which would in return put more construction employees out of work. 

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Superintendent, Al Bangoura, added support that the bonding bill is as important as ever at this current time. He touched up on the North Commons Project, which would help create a new recreation center and arts facility, including basketball courts, tracks and more for people in the community and helping create better equity. 

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"People would be able to take pride in the community with this new project and it would create about 200 jobs," Bangoura said. 

He added the investment would help the area compete economically by hosting tournaments and events, which would be a full investment for the youth and residents of the North Side. 

Also speaking at the presser Tuesday afternoon was Myron Frans, Commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget (MBB). He said MMB has over $5 billion in requests when they were putting together a bonding proposal earlier in the year and the state still has a backlog of items needing to be addressed. Frans mentioned they have been saving "for a rainy day" and the state has over $2 billion in a reserve. 

Financially speaking, Frans said the state is in a great position, noting less debt than other states and borrowing is far less than some. However, Frans strongly urged, even with the COVID-19 deficit, to invest now, as it would set the state up for success in the future. 

"With historically low rates, now is the time to borrow and invest in the state before costs go up in the future and before facilities fail and need emergency fixes, which can cost more," Frans said.

Regarding emergency powers, Wals said he hopes lawmakers can move past it. He says 49 out of 50 states have emergency powers currently, and he is happy to remove them when legislation gets done to cover what his emergency powers allow. House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt had previously stopped bonding in the regular session because Walz's emergency powers were still in place.

About $58 million was saved in the last two months with moves like hiring and wage freezes and more, according to the governor. 

Walz added that he doesn't believe the Senate's self-imposed deadline of Friday is a bad thing but notes things have changed drastically since the Legislature convened in February. Even if the Senate adjourns on Friday, the governor said he can always call them back over and over again but he doesn't want to do that. He is asking lawmakers to "just compromise and be open-minded."

"Let's show that divided legislature can work," Walz said, adding that he saw a report about Americans as unhappy as they've been in 50 years and they shouldn't pile on that. 


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