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Walz pitches area projects for funds

By Mike Dougherty

mdougherty@postbulletin.com

Hundreds of millions of federal stimulus dollars are expected to rain down on Minnesota with area township, school district, city and county officials hoping to give their local projects a shot in the arm and, with it, a kickstart to an economy wallowing in a growing jobless rate.

The federal stimulus plan moved a step closer to passage Tuesday after the U.S. Senate approved an $838 billion economic recovery plan. An $819 billion package had already won approval in the House. The two plans now go into tough House-Senate negotiations where a final package will be hammered out. A vote on the compromise package could come by this weekend.

A list of area projects in need of stimulus dollars has been sent to 1st District Rep. Tim Walz. Those projects range from $50 million for Pine Island’s Elk Run biobusiness development to nearly $25 million to replace Rushford’s school. In Rochester, there are requests for $25 million for a new county public works operation center, $18 million for a transit operations and maintenance center and $15 million for repaving and reconditioning a stretch of U.S. 14. The smallest item is $8,900 from Wabasha for work to repair Glasgow Township roads.

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Walz, a DFLer who voted for the House’s stimulus bill, forwarded more than $625 million in requests for federal economic recovery funds to Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s administration. The current version of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act calls for the federal dollars to go to the states to be distributed through infrastructure projects and state aid. Not all the projects that are proposed will receive money.

"At the end of January, I held several listening sessions with township, city, school district and county officials so I could hear more about the types of projects they want to undertake in order to fix their infrastructure and create jobs in our communities," Walz said.

Homebuilders, automakers and green-energy firms could be big winners in the stimulus sweepstakes.

Those sectors, among the hardest hit by the recession, could be in the best position to cash in once Congress gives final approval to an economic stimulus. President Obama has been pushing Congress to act quickly.

Walz described the projects as those that go from the "mundane street repair, to sewage systems and water treatment facilities, to new school buildings, to water tower refurbishing."

Although the fine print of the stimulus package is still being hammered out, analysts expect the final plan to focus, in part, on public infrastructure projects, green energy, housing and automakers.

Post-Bulletin news services contributed to this report.

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