Minn House, Senate agree on bonding bill, includes key Duluth projects

By KBJR News 1

May 14, 2014 Updated May 14, 2014 at 9:41 PM CST

St. Paul, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Just days ahead of adjournment, Minnesota lawmakers announced an agreement on a $1B statewide public works bill.

The bill is comprised of $846 million in GO bonds and an additional bill that includes $200 million coming from surplus cash.

The joint proposal includes good news for several key Duluth projects.

The clouds surrounding the future of Wade Stadium could be lifting after a handshake on a statewide capital investment package.

The aging Home of the Huskies is slated to receive $2.3 million dollars.

"This is enough money to do the tuck pointing, the field drainage, and lighting, which are kind of the must haves of the project," said Sen. Roger Reinert (DFL-Duluth).

The mood surrounding the project is a far cry from this time just a week ago. There was plenty of uncertainty whether Wade Stadium would get any funding at all from the state, after the Governor and the Senate both omitted the project from their proposals.

"Wade Stadium was one that was at the great risk of falling through the cracks," said Duluth Mayor Don Ness.

Mayor Ness says persistence was key in getting the project added to the bonding bill.

"We felt like we needed to make an immediate presence and let people know how disappointed we were with the Senate bill and talk about the importance of those projects."

The joint proposal also calls for $6.95 million dollars for renovations of the NorShor Theatre and $3.4 million for snow-making at Spirit Mountain.

The proposed funding will need to be matched by the city.

"We're coupling that with the food and beverage, the half cent food and beverage tax that's in the tax bill, that's how the city is going to pay for its portion of the bonding projects," said Sen. Reinert.

City leaders remain cautiously optimistic.

The bill needs super-majority support in both chambers before it heads to the Governor.

What's not in the bonding bill? Money for Lake Superior Zoo and a policy issue that required sprinklers in some new homes.

Governor Dayton said had that provision been included, he would have vetoed the bill.

Republican lawmakers are drafting their own proposal in hopes of securing bipartisan support.

"Today's so-called agreement is nothing more than an idea between Democrat legislative leaders, and not a plan Republicans agreed to or were involved in crafting. It is also unclear if Governor Dayton agreed to or was involved in crafting Democrat leaders’ idea," House Minority Leader Rep. Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) said.

The House is expected to vote on the bill on Thursday.

The last day of the 2014 legislative session is Monday, May 19th.

Other Duluth projects included in the 2014 bonding bill:
LSC Allied Health: $$5.266 million
UMD Chemical Science & Advanced Materials Planning monies: $1.5 million
$2 million for the four Minnesota ports some of which will come to the Duluth port.

Iron Range Projects:
Highway 53 Reroute: $19M
Range Regional Airport: $5M
Grand Rapids Performing Arts: $3.9M
Giant's Ridge: $3.8M

Written by Kevin Jacobsen
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