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Is Minnesota really going to pass up the double opportunity for a strong bonding bill?

Is Minnesota really going to pass up the double opportunity for a strong bonding bill?

Throughout my 37 years in the Legislature, the second year of every session has been dedicated to passing a bonding bill to invest in Minnesota’s infrastructure. Bonding bills provide financing to pave new roads, improve our ports, construct water systems and update existing infrastructure — and the construction of these projects creates thousands of good-paying union jobs along the way.

Bonding bills always make sense for Minnesota, but this year there was an additional incentive from the federal government: matching funds to finance the projects. If the Legislature had passed a bonding bill, the taxpayers of Minnesota would have benefitted from critical infrastructure investments at a heavily discounted rate.

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Unfortunately, so far the Legislature has failed to pass a bonding bill, leaving the possibility that this federal money could be used for projects in other states. That’s why I’m urging the Senate Republican majority to agree to a special session so we can get our work done on a bonding bill and other key priorities.

Minnesota needs infrastructure improvements, and we cannot afford to wait. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Minnesota’s infrastructure received a “C” grade in 2022. Our roads are filled with potholes, our wastewater facilities are aging, and our parks have been heavily trafficked throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

A $280 million state investment would unlock 26 times that amount — $7.3 billion — in matching federal financing. That would amount to one of the largest infrastructure investments in state history.

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These investments would be used toward important projects that don’t necessarily get the attention they deserve, like upgrading the HVAC systems at our colleges and universities, or replacing roofing on government buildings.

Every Minnesotan deserves to have world-class drinking water, safe roads and bridges, clean wastewater facilities and beautiful parks. But these projects are expensive, and we can’t expect local governments to shoulder the entire cost.

State Sen. Sandy Pappas

State Sen. Sandy Pappas

Greater Minnesota faces some of the largest budget shortfalls, as small towns don’t have the tax base and therefore the revenue needed to invest in large-scale infrastructure projects. This is where the state has an obligation to step in to support communities large and small alike.

The failure to pass a bonding bill is a failure to take advantage of the opportunities to invest in the jobs and economic development that keeps our state moving. As lawmakers, we have a responsibility to maintain our state’s assets and build new projects to support future generations.

Unfortunately, Senate Republicans have made clear in recent days that they are not interested in coming back to the Capitol to finish this important work. Their decision to walk away is a decision to leave billions of dollars in federal infrastructure subsidies on the table. I encourage my Republican colleagues to reconsider that decision and come back to the Legislature to finish our work to deliver for Minnesotans.

Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, is a member of the Minnesota Senate.