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Heavy lifting remains on bonding bill

Gov., House worlds apart on bill; Senate version could come early next week

March 24, 2012
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - On one side, is Gov. Mark Dayton's $775 million bonding proposal that he has deemed a jobs creation package that will put "thousands of Minnesotans back to work."

On the other, is the House version, nearly a polar opposite of the governor's list of recommendations, that topped out at $280 million, plus another $221 million spread over multiple years for Capitol remodeling.

So how will the Senate bill compare?

District 22 Sen. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, sits on the Senate Capitol Investment Committee and said Friday the Senate's numbers will likely come in somewhere around $500 million and, like the House version, will include a bill for Capitol renovations.

Neither Dayton's bill, nor the House's, include any bonding dollars for a proposed regional sports facility in Marshall or expansion of the city's MERIT training center. The Southwest Minnesota Regional Amateur Sports Commission is asking for $4 million for the sports complex; $2.5 million has been requested for the MERIT Center. The $4 million is same amount the SMASC was denied in 2008. Capital budget recommendations already introduced this session include just $375,000 overall to the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission.

"When you look at civic centers and sports facilities, I'm not sure how they're gonna shake out," Magnus said. "Right now I'm guessing we'll be close to $500 million depending on what we put in for the Capitol and then sit down and look at the rest of the projects and see how they match up."

Magnus said Friday that Marshall's funding request has been bumped up to No. 1 over Moorhead's proposed sports facility on the MASC priority list, but that's no guarantee SMASC's request will be honored.

"We still have some obstacles to overcome," Magnus said. "In the end it will be whether there's money around for it. There are some issues with the Moorhead facility, so that slid back, and that's helpful."

The proposed sports complex would be built near the intersection of Minnesota Highway 23 and East College Drive on land donated by the Schwan Food Co. It would feature two sheets of ice which could be used for hockey or converted for other events. Construction of the sports center could begin as early as next year and take about a year to complete. There are also opportunities for softball and soccer fields to be built nearby, but those are not included in the $12.9 million estimate.

District 21 Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, who carried the bill for the proposed amateur sports complex, said local projects will be discussed in committee in the coming days.

"There may be some opportunity for some of the special projects," he said. "It's hard to say. The (state) amateur sports (commission's) request has other projects in it, so it's really hard to rule anything out at this point. If there is some appetite for doing some of these local projects, I think we have just as good a chance as anybody."

Dahms said the SMASC has done a good job of presenting its case to the House and Senate and has a lot of the groundwork for the $12.9 million project laid out already. Still, he said, it will be the voters who will ultimately determine if the project gets off the ground this year or if it will have to start another round of the waiting game. Marshall residents in November will vote on a .5 percent general sales tax and a 1.5 percent "hospitality tax" on food and lodging.

Magnus agreed that the local funding piece of the sports complex, or current lack thereof, could become an issue when the final bonding bill is put together.

"That's an issue that could be problematic, no doubt about it," said Magnus.

The .5 percent local sales tax to help cover capital construction costs for both the sports facility and MERIT Center projects received approval from the Legislature in the 2011 session. A 1.5 percent "hospitality tax" on sales of prepared food, beverages and lodging to offset operating costs of the sports center was approved in 2010.

House and Senate Republican leaders have said bonds should be used for core infrastructure needs only, such as road construction. On roads and bridges, Dayton wants $25 million, while the House came in at $20 million. Magnus said bonding needs to be set aside for roads and bridges since the 2008 transportation bill was vetoed. Last year, $33 million was appropriated for bridges and $10 million for roads.

"We could bump up to that level this year," Magnus said. "It's important for us to be able to move our products around the state."

"Our capital investment chairman has stated that he feels we need to be looking strong at roads and bridges, as far as maintaining and upgrading," Dahms said.

Dayton's proposal does include $500,000 for science lab renovations at Southwest Minnesota State University; the House version does not. In fact, the House bill includes just $56.5 million for state college projects, while Dayton has proposed $111.9 million in that area.

Magnus said the committee will be putting a significant amount of money toward HEAPER funds for colleges and universities in the MnSCU system, possibly including funding for Worthington's MinnWest campus and SMSU.

"We'll certainly give serious consideration to the MnSCU priority list," he said.



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