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It should have been a bail law – and it still could be

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I write to applaud and reinforce the message of the May 21 editorial (“All that bitterness, so little action”) and Lori Sturdevant’s May 22 column (“Job One for an even-year parliament is demoted”) . Agreed. The most significant missed opportunity of the 2024 legislative session was the inability to pass a critical election-year capital investment product known as the “bond bill.”

Over the past year, the House and Senate Capital Investment Committees have made tremendous efforts. Chaired by Sen. Sandy Pappas, D-St. Paul and Rep. Fue Lee, D-Minneapolis, and supported by ranking members Sen. Karin Housley, R-Stillwater, and Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, the 28 members of the two committees traveled thousands of miles and spent countless hours working to pursuit of the greater good for Minnesota. They visited hundreds of sites and listened to local proponents of the many worthy projects seeking state financing through general obligation bonds and cash appropriations financing.

The exhaustive effort to make the most of the more than $7 billion in requests came to nothing this session. It was a bitter disappointment, especially for Urdahl, who retired after 22 years in the House of Representatives. As Sturdevant highlighted in her interview with Urdahl, other factors have often disrupted the state’s vital capital investment activities. This year they did it again. That is a tragedy that must and can be corrected this year.

More than $1 billion in general obligation bonds and credits were on the table in the final days of the session, including much-needed funding to the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota state system and a dozen state agencies for multiple asset preservation projects, as well as grants to local governments for clean drinking water, wastewater treatment, public infrastructure and local community projects.

Of the $1 billion target, more than $330 million was reserved for equal appointment by the two majority and two minority parties in the House of Representatives and the Senate. That pool would be distributed to local projects, both government agencies and nonprofits, in more than a hundred communities across the state, with local lawmakers making the decisions in collaboration with local leaders and citizens. That is the epitome of ‘local control’. This huge missed opportunity is the worst news of the recent session.

This temporary setback can be corrected. The Governor, with the cooperation of all four leaders of the legislative caucus, has the sole and absolute authority to do this. It just takes Governor Tim Walz to listen to the heartfelt pleas of local governments, state agencies, and association and community leaders to call a one-day, one-bill special session. Yes, all five — Walz, Speaker Melissa Hortman, Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, Senate Majority Leader Erin Murphy and Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson — must sit down, negotiate in good faith and reach an agreement before a special session can take place. to be called. What could be more bipartisan? This would be the holy grail of leadership and cooperation in the State Capitol that Minnesota voters so desperately want again.

A single bill, with both general obligation and cash financing, can do so much for the state, its communities and its businesses. The projects that such a bill would produce are critical. Just listen to the calls from leaders at the university, Minnesota State, the League of Cities, the Association of Counties, Minnesota and local Chambers of Commerce, the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council and many other unions, local project managers and non- profit organizations. many, many others throughout Minnesota. If they all raise their voices, Walz will listen. He can convene the leaders and achieve the much-needed and desired result at the most opportune time. (September, after the primaries and well before the November general election, would be one such moment.) The governor, 41 votes in the Senate and 81 votes in the House of Representatives, is all that is needed. In a one-bill session, the votes will be there.

During the 2023 session, a record capital investment bill provided preliminary financing, in the form of a down payment, to many high-value projects across the state. As has been the Legislature’s tradition for many years, these projects must now receive the expected final funding and proceed to actual construction.

Walz, Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan and legislative leaders await your word. Help them act as they were elected to do by spreading more than $1 billion in critical investments in Minnesota’s future to every part of the state. Waiting until May 2025 will only become much more expensive. To learn more about the effort to pass a bail bill this year, visit MNBB24.com.

Jim Erickson of Minneapolis just completed his 52nd session as a registered lobbyist at the Minnesota State Capitol. He is the founder and president of Solomon Strategies Group.