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Bakk seeks special legislative jobs session

ST. PAUL -- Sen. Tom Bakk wants to move forward with projects like a new Duluth airport terminal and construction at Lake Superior College to create jobs, and claims a special legislative session could speed the process.

Jobs are important, the Cook Democrat and 2010 governor candidate said Thursday, and constructing public projects is a quick way to put people to work.

Bakk was jobless during the early 1980s recession. "I speak from the heart."

While Bakk said workers across the state would benefit from a public works bill, he pointed to two in his district as examples.

The Duluth International Airport is constructing a new terminal, with the first $5.3 million phase under way. The $3 million second phase could begin sooner if a special session were called, he said.

Also, Lake Superior College is ready to begin construction on a $12 million health science center, he added, but needs legislative approval.

Surrounded by union members, Bakk said that state government should take several steps to create jobs, but the first action could be a special session dedicated to passing a public works bill that he said should cost about $1 billion.

Since the state constitution gives the governor exclusive power to call a special session, Bakk wrote to Gov. Tim Pawlenty asking that one begin in December, two months before lawmakers are scheduled to launch their 2010 session. Bakk said if a public works funding bill, commonly known as the bonding bill, is handled during the regular session, it likely will become bogged down in politics.

"The economic stimulus that could be derived by getting hundreds of construction workers back on the job early in 2010 would be a tremendous boost for the state as well as for those workers and their families," Bakk wrote to Pawlenty.

But Pawlenty said it is "silly" to think that construction work would begin early in the year. Lawmakers can wait until their Feb. 4 session start to work on the bill, Pawlenty said, although he added that he is willing to discuss Bakk's idea.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.