Pawlenty proposes $685M bonding bill

Gov. Tim Pawlenty
Gov. Tim Pawlenty, seen here at a press conference in November 2009, announced Friday his list of recommended state contruction projects for the Legislature to consider.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has proposed $685 million in state borrowing to fund projects covering everything from flood mitigation to bridge improvements to preserving state university buildings.

Pawlenty said the bonding proposal, which would spend about a third of the money on higher education, is appropriate in a tough economy.

"Overall I think the bill is affordable, responsible and appropriate while meeting the priority needs of Minnesota," Pawlenty said during a news conference Friday to outline the proposal.

Pawlenty's bonding recommendations were made from $2.7 billion in requests.

Higher education would receive about $246 million. Transportation projects would get $159 million, and public safety and corrections would get $127 million.

Pawlenty and Democratic legislative leaders differ on how big the bonding bill should be. Democrats say now is the time to spend more, while Pawlenty thinks the economic downturn should lead to a leaner bonding bill.

"Our taxpayer dollar will go farther this year than if we wait two years for these projects. That resonates with everyone," said state Rep. Alice Hausman, a Democrat from St. Paul and chairwoman of the House Capital Investment Finance Division.

Hausman said she will propose a bill that borrows roughly $1 billion for state projects.

Pawlenty said he didn't include funding for any local projects in his proposal, because he said the state can't continue to spend in tough budget times.

"If you look at what the key needs of the state are on a prioritized basis in the midst of the worst economic crisis since World War II, that probably leads you to things like the key prioritized projects and infrastructure that we've outlined here as opposed to the things that are more discretionary," he said.

Here's a summary of where the governor wants the bonding money to go, according to a news release from the governor's office:

* $100 million for the University of Minnesota, including $40 for asset preservation, $53 million for a physics and nanotechnology facility and $6.7 million to renovate research labs. The university will provide additional funds to pay for the projects.

* $93 million for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, including $50 million for asset preservation and $15 million for a building for business, accounting and hospitality programs at Normandale Community College. MnSCU will provide additional funds to pay for the projects.

* $159 million for transportation, including $75 million to replace about 960 bridges and $10 million to build and improve transitways in the Twin Cities area.

* $127 million for public safety, including $89 million to complete Phase II of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program facility at Moose Lake and $10 million for security improvements at Oak Park Heights Correctional Facility.

* $50 million for flood mitigation in the Red River Valley and elsewhere.

* $10 million for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for closed landfills.

* $90 million for economic development, including $50 million for drinking water and waste water treatment programs and $25 million for grants to cities for public infrastructure and business expansion.

* $33 million for veterans and military, including $9.4 million to renovate Minneapolis Veterans Home Building 17.

* $21 million for the Minnesota Zoo.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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