Opinion: Bonding bill necessary to help create jobs in this economy

The immediate need for more jobs, particularly in the construction industry, is a strong argument for the Minnesota Legislature to pass a big bonding bill, and the sooner the better.

So far, Gov. Mark Dayton has said he favors a $1 billion bonding bill, while the Republicans, who have majorities in both houses, want fewer dollars, if any, in a bonding bill.

Last year, the Minnesota Legislature, then controlled by the DFL, sent Gov. Tim Pawlenty a bonding bill for $1 billion. He eliminated projects that got the final bill down to $686 million.

Considering this tough economic time, most Minnesotans would agree that having a bonding bill that immediately puts construction people to work on worthy and ready projects and does not hurt the state’s credit rating should be passed.

As of last November, 208,438 people were unemployed in Minnesota, including 20.7 percent construction workers who have been hit the hardest by this recession.

While construction accounts for 3 percent of the employment, it represented one-third of the jobless claims last November.

Paint-brush (renovation) and shovel-ready (capital improvements) are in the pipeline as well as some money for projects that are unfinished and needing funds.

The argument for using bonding money is to stimulate the economy and put skilled people to work.

Meanwhile, many Republican legislators say that government does not create jobs, and using public funds in the bonding bill takes money in taxes away from the private sector which creates real jobs.

Now, Republicans are focused on the budget deficit and chances are any bonding bill will become part of the final settlement on government spending for the next biennium.

Gov. Dayton will have to step up soon and present his bonding bill, which will become the framework for crafting a final bonding bill. There’s every indication he will present a big-dollar bonding bill to the Legislature.

Both DFL and Republican legislators face difficult votes on the bonding bill.

Republicans used DFL legislative votes on bonding to help take over both houses. Realizing that, DFL legislators will not be so eager to pass a bonding bill.

On the flip side, legislators want to bring capital improvements and jobs to their districts, renovating buildings and constructing new ones on college campuses and at the University of Minnesota.

One example is the Coon Rapids dam that requires $16 million to rebuild the substructure.

As a bonding bill is put together in both houses and then in conference committee, the standard is for the amount of debt service is not to exceed 3 percent of the general fund expenditure.

Republicans will want to show that they can slow spending and not add to the deficit, and one way is to spend less on a bonding bill.

The public, however, will understand that passing a very sizable bonding bill that is focused on ready and soon-to-be-ready capital projects resulting in many new jobs is necessary in this economy. — (Editor’s note: This editorial is a product of the ECM Editorial Board. The Star News is a part of ECM Publishers Inc.)

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