ST. PAUL— A late session deal that added $1.5 billion in state bonding to a capital projects improvement bill is expected to inject $2.6 billion into the state’s economy over the …
ST. PAUL— A late session deal that added $1.5 billion in state bonding to a capital projects improvement bill is expected to inject $2.6 billion into the state’s economy over the biennium, with tens of millions of dollars headed to the North Country. It’s the largest state infrastructure funding package in state history.
The $1.5 billion in bonding was a last-minute add-on to a $1.1 billion cash-only proposal, which had the support of DFLers in the Legislature, but little GOP support. The bonding measure includes the same items that had been included in an earlier bonding bill which Republicans in the Senate rejected back in March. Bonding bills require a three-fifths vote in favor for passage, which the DFL couldn’t muster in the Senate, where they hold a narrow, one-seat majority.
The DFL had responded by assembling a cash-only bill, using funds from the state’s record $17.6 billion surplus, but the measure focused much of the investment in DFL-dominated areas.
Both sides had continued to try to reach a compromise, however, that could win passage of the bonding bill as well. That deal was first reported by Minnesota Public Radio over the session’s final weekend.
The final passage of the bonding bill is a major win for northeastern Minnesota, which had nearly $40 million in projects riding on the measure. That includes a whopping $11 million for Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park for the design and construction of a visitors’ center, additional camping facilities, hiking and biking trails, along with a dock and fishing pier. The funding is also earmarked for design of the Mattson Bay Camp and the Soudan Heritage and Science Center, along with the rehabilitation of the Jasper Peak fire tower.
Minnesota North College-Vermilion is slated to receive $3.633 million to design, renovate, and equip the college’s classroom building and common space.
The bonding will also provide $12.229 million for the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation to acquire, upgrade and install a snowmaking infrastructure system at Giants Ridge, including replacing aging water lines. It will also fund $2 million in utility extensions and upgrades for the city of Babbitt’s West Development housing project.
Meanwhile, the cash-only bill includes $1.5 million for the repair and renovation of the Timber Hall in Embarrass, good news for the volunteers there who use the facility on a regular basis. “I’m floating on cloud nine,” said Tana Johnson, chair of the Embarrass Region Fair Association. “This money will ensure that Timber Hall will be available for years and years to serve the communities in our region.” Johnson thanked Rep. Dave Lislegard, who authored the funding provision.
Other area projects in the overall funding package include:
• $1.3 million for all-terrain vehicle trail system improvements in St. Louis County.
• $3.5 million for the construction of a marina in the city of Ranier to serve as a safe harbor and gateway to Voyageurs National Park.
• $1.75 million for improvements to the Hoyt Lakes Community Recreation and Wellness Center.
• $1.5 million for the Bigfork Community Center.
• $1 million for planning and design of the International Falls regional health and wellness center.
Missing from the funding package is money for the Tower-Breitung Wastewater Board, which had been looking for help to finance a planned drinking water treatment facility. The project, which has been delayed for three years now, currently has an estimated $2.1 million funding gap that city and township officials had hoped to cover through state bonding.
Other funding approved
Meanwhile, other legislation approved by lawmakers directed funding to the regional projects as well. Sen. Hauschild, who serves on the Tax Committee, was able to include a provision in the tax bill that provides funding for nearly a dozen northeastern Minnesota facilities or projects, including:
• $750,000 to the Boundary Waters Care Center.
• $650,000 to ISD 2142 for the North Woods School near Cook.
• $200,000 to Veterans on the Lake, in Winton.
• $250,000 for 4H Clubs in St. Louis County.
• $100,000 to the Ely Igloo Snowmobile Club.
• $100,000 to the Voyageur Trail Society.
• $100,000 to the Babbitt ATV and Snowmobile Club.
• $100,000 to the Crane Lake Voyageurs Trail Club.
In addition, Hauschild announced this week that Legislature’s Environment bill includes $1.9 million toward the construction of the Crane Lake Voyageurs National Park visitor center and campground as well as for improvements to the state-operated boat ramp there.
That measure also includes the following:
• $1.45 million from the DNR’s dedicated account for ATV trail development associated with the Voyageur Country and Prospectors Loop systems.
• $500,000 for the Redhead mountain bike park in Chisholm.
• $6 million for the 1854 Treaty Area agreement.