By Roman Witucki, Guest Columnist
Later this month, legislators will return to the State Capitol in St. Paul for the 2014 legislative session. The legislative session will adjourn in May and then members of the Minnesota House of Representatives will hit the campaign trail for the 2014 election.
While the state budget is the focus of odd-year legislative sessions, the bonding bill is the focus on even-year sessions. Bonding bills, including Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal, are often referred to as “jobs bills” because they create and sustain jobs. There are design jobs, construction jobs and then jobs created by what is built.
While an updated road or bridge won’t create ongoing jobs, it will make it easier/more efficient to get goods to market which could create jobs. Improvements to the state’s college and university campuses will prepare Minnesota students for the jobs of the future.
Dayton’s $986 million bonding proposal is projected to create 27,000 jobs in Minnesota. The governor’s bill invests in regional civic centers and downtown improvements. He knows these investments will encourage others to invest in our communities and leverage private funding.
Minnesota has always been known for its education system, but we must keep up with the times. The governor’s proposed funding to the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities includes improvements to research and laboratory facilities. This will not only help Minnesota students, but attract other students to our high-equality campuses.
Investing in roads and bridges is important to help businesses get their goods to market and for residents of rural Minnesota to have safe highways. Repairing and building roads provides much-needed jobs for our construction workers who more than anyone, felt the pinch of the Great Recession.
Rural Minnesota relies on funding from bonding bills for improvements to local assets like Camp Ripley, the Minnesota Department of Transportation to keep our roads safe and parks and trails to bring tourists to our communities. Local requests include funding for the Little Falls Truck Station and $11.6 million for an expansion of the St. Cloud River’s Edge Convention Center, which will bring jobs to our region. Bonding bills have included funding for Camp Ripley and natural resource projects important to our communities.
A bonding bill needs 60 percent of legislators to approve it. When our representatives and senator don’t vote for a bonding bill, we all pay the price.
While the economy has been improving, there are still a number of Minnesotans looking for work. The Legislature passing a bonding bill and the governor signing it into law will make a big difference in the lives of working Minnesotans. I am hopeful our local legislators will support their communities and vote for this year’s bonding bill.
There are many ways to keep track of what’s taking place at the State Capitol during the legislative session. In addition to reading your local newspaper you can get information at www.house.leg.state.mn.us or www.senate.mn.
Roman Witucki of Little Falls is the chairman of the Morrison County DFL Party.