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Dayton wants $1 billion in bonding; he suggests half of projects

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ST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton today offered a unique proposal: The Legislature should pass a $1 billion public works funding bill, but the Democratic governor only proposed half of the projects.

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Dayton suggested the Legislature pick the other half of the projects.

However, Republican leaders say they oppose a so-called bonding bill this year, other than disaster and other urgent needs.

"I will sign what they send," Dayton said. "I can't force it to go higher."

Among projects Dayton included in his public works proposal is the Newport Transit Center. It is among three transit projects proposed to receive part of $12.5 million that would be directed to the Metropolitan Council.

Dayton's proposal departs from then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, who stayed away from city projects such as civic center. Dayton called those projects important for the state economy.

"This is about putting Minnesotans back to work," he said.

Long-time bonding chairman Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said that Republicans will complain about the bill, but in the end "it will happen."

He was happy that Dayton began funding the $55 million he said is needed for flood projects, especially in northwestern Minnesota, but only about half is in the bill. He said lawmakers need to add the other half before sending Dayton the measure for his signature.

Dayton often said during last fall's governor campaign that he favors a $1 billion bonding bill, always resulting in rebuffs by Republicans who said this down economy is not the time.

On Friday, House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, repeated that GOP line, but refused to completely close the door. His main concern was making sure public works money approved in previous legislative sessions has been spent. He said millions of dollars have been appropriated but not spent.

Some of that money could be "unbonded" and moved to new projects that are ready to be built, Dean said. He complained that some agencies that receive bonding money hold it for the entire four years it can be used instead of trying to spent it quickly.

Over the years, an argument for bonding has been that it can produce jobs quickly, but to do that projects must be ready to begin weeks after lawmakers approve it.

Large bonding bills normally come in even-numbered years, but Dayton said jobs are needed now and a bonding bill should be able to help.

Disaster and other unforeseen spending needs often are dealt with in even-numbered years, and Republicans have not said they will oppose any of those type of spending requests.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

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