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Political Notebook: Dayton rolls out bonding bill

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Local governments will find out Monday if their project wish lists made it into Gov. Mark Dayton's proposed construction borrowing bill.

The governor is expected to unveil a $750 million bonding bill Monday morning. Among the projects he has said will be included is Rochester's Mayo Civic Center expansion. Plenty of other area projects are also hoping to get a piece of the funding, including Chatfield Center for the Arts, Red Wing's Sheldon Theatre and Preston's National Trout Center — just to name a few.

Meanwhile, House Capital Investment Committee Chairwoman Alice Hausman has said she plans to release her $800 million bonding bill proposal on Tuesday. She has indicated her plan will likely include $60 million in Olmsted County projects, including the civic center expansion and $5 million for a high-speed passenger rail study. No word yet on when the Senate plans to unveil its bonding proposal.

What makes these bills unusual is that they are being released in a non-traditional bonding year. Generally, the state does its large construction borrowing bills in even years. But the governor and others argue that with low-interest rates and a backlog of projects, this is the year to take action.

Also worth watching will be if any items are aimed at helping support Mayo Clinic's Destination Medical Center project. The clinic wants $585 million to go to the city of Rochester to pay for infrastructure upgrades to support its expansion plans. But so far, lawmakers have balked at the price tag. Another big question is whether these large bonding proposals will be able to win the necessary Republican support. Bonding bills require a super-majority in order to pass, meaning some GOP members will have to get on board.


Benson pushes for transportation study

Rochester GOP Rep. Mike Benson is pushing for a comprehensive study to determine the Rochester area's transportation needs during the next 20 years. He noted that there are already four studies going on — one looking at freight rail, another at high-speed passenger rail, a U.S. 52 corridor study and one on a new terminal at the airport. With Mayo Clinic announcing its plans for a $6 billion expansion project in the city, he said it is important that policymakers have a broad analysis of the region's expected needs.

The study will cost $170,000, and Benson said House Transportation Finance Chairmen Frank Hornstein has told him he plans to include funding for the study in a larger transportation spending bill.

Tax Day Rally returns

The Rochester Tea Party Tax Day Rally returns this year with 2012 U.S. Senate candidate Kurt Bills as one of the featured speakers. The rally begins with a meet and greet at 6 p.m., and the program starts at 7 p.m. on April 15 at the Rochester Ramada Hotel and Conference Center in Rochester.

Bills' speech topic is "The Road Ahead." The Rosemount High School economics teacher has kept a low profile since losing last November to DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar by more than 30 percentage points.

The other featured speaker will be Peter Vessenes, with the American Citizens for Economic Freedom, talking about "A Plan of Attack to Restore Our Country and Economy."

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