Bonding bill now about jobsST. PAUL — Forget calling it the bonding bill or public works funding bill. Democrats now like to call a measure they passed last week a jobs bill.
By: Don Davis, The Republican Eagle
ST. PAUL — Forget calling it the bonding bill or public works funding bill. Democrats now like to call a measure they passed last week a jobs bill.
Some say the bill could create 10,000 jobs across Minnesota. But what it would do — if it survives in somewhat the same form as the House and Senate passed — would be to repair and renovate college buildings, construct local arenas and convention centers, fund additions to trails and approve many other public works projects.
The House passed the bill 99-34 Thursday afternoon, following four hours of debate. The Senate overwhelmingly passed its own version last week.
Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said the House and Senate are in negotiations on the bill and are expected to send a compromise version to Gov. Tim Pawlenty this week.
Funding in the bills is gained by the state selling bonds. In much of the debate, the projects themselves have taken a back seat as lawmakers look for ways to create jobs in a sluggish economy.
House leaders promoted a couple of examples from the bonding bill as ways it could provide jobs:
• Department of Natural Resources programs dealing with forest restoration are ready to begin now, so they were put in the bill at the expense of other programs that would take time to gear up.
• Infrastructure related to the Minnesota Steel project in Itasca County also was included. New roads and other infrastructure provided for the $1.6 billion steel plant — which will turn taconite into steel slabs — can begin to be built soon. The House bill includes $28 million for the project.
“We looked for projects that were ready to go,” Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, said, so jobs can be created immediately.
The House-passed bill includes $960 million in borrowed money, $5 million less than the measure senators overwhelmingly passed earlier this week.
House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, said the bill ignores the state’s priorities.
“It is pork for some and debt for all,” he said.
Seifert and other Republicans failed in several attempts to move money from projects included in the bill to other proposals.
Seifert tried to move $11 million from a new gorilla exhibit at St. Paul’s Como Zoo to a school program.
“There is absolutely no reason to pick this project over your children,” he said. “I have not heard a member stand up and say yet that the needs of the gorillas outweigh the needs of the school kids.”