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Minnesota Gov. Walz proposes $982 million infrastructure plan with focus on preservation

  • Gov. Tim Walz has proposed a $982 million public infrastructure plan, mainly focusing on preserving existing buildings and facilities.
  • The proposal, known as a bonding bill, will be a centerpiece of the governor’s agenda for the 2024 legislative session.
  • The plan aims to protect drinking water, improve roads and bridges, ensure public safety and support safe housing.

Gov. Tim Walz proposed a $982 million public infrastructure plan Tuesday that includes a new headquarters for the Minnesota State Patrol but focuses mostly on the unglamorous task of preserving existing buildings and facilities.

The package, known as a bonding bill, will be a centerpiece of the governor’s agenda for the 2024 legislative session, which convenes Feb. 12. Bonding bills are typically a main focus of sessions in even-numbered years because those are when the two-year state budget is set.

Walz said his plan would protect drinking water, improve roads and bridges, protect public safety and support safe housing. His proposal follows a record $2.6 billion bonding package that lawmakers passed in May. But it stays within the $830 million budget that officials estimate the state can now safely borrow via general obligation bonds while preserving its triple-A credit rating, and the limited amount of cash available for new spending. The bonds are expected to have an interest rate of 4.3%.

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“This is my big show for this legislative session,” Walz said at a news conference.

Budget Commissioner Erin Campbell said 45% of the package, or $387 million, or would go toward fixing and improving existing facilities owned by state agencies and higher education institutions. The average age of state buildings is 42 years, she said, so they need significant repairs, upgrades and replacements.

“We need to invest in these assets now to begin to address the $6.4 billion in deferred maintenance of state infrastructure,” Campbell said. “Investing in our facilities is the fiscally responsible thing to do.”

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The Democratic governor’s proposal also includes $142 million for public safety projects, including $22 million to acquire land and begin the design process for a new State Patrol headquarters. The plan is to bring together operations that are currently scattered among six different office spaces across the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

“This isn’t about replacing a headquarters,” said Col. Matt Langer, chief of the agency. “This is about charting the future of the Minnesota State Patrol.”

The public safety components also include $48 million for a Bureau of Criminal Apprehension facility in Mankato that would provide laboratory and other investigative services, primarily for local law enforcement agencies across southern Minnesota, and $47 million to expand space for rehabilitation, educational and health programming at the state prison in Rush City.

Walz did not include anything for updates to the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul, the home of the Minnesota Wild, who have estimated that the 23-year-old arena may need as much as $300 million in renovations.. Walz said that’s because neither the NHL team nor the city have submitted a formal proposal yet.

“It looks to me like we could anticipate that coming, and we’ll work through it when it does,” Walz said.

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Legislators are sure to have their own ideas about what should be in a bonding bill. The state constitution requires 60% supermajorities in both the House and Senate to approve taking on more debt. Democrats have a narrow majority in each chamber and will need some Republicans to support the plan.

The lead Senate Republican on capital investment issues, Karin Housley, of Stillwater, said in a statement that she was concerned that the governor’s proposal doesn’t contain enough money for local needs. She also signaled her priorities include wastewater treatment and crumbling roads.

But Walz said he’s confident the final package will get strong bipartisan support because it will benefit communities statewide.

“Keeping up infrastructure is a very conservative value,” he said.

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