MARSHALL - Two Republican District 16 politicians were generally pleased with Gov. Mark Dayton's bonding recommendations for 2014 and said they will shift their focus to the Marshall project that didn't make the governor's bill.
Dayton's nearly $1 billion borrowing proposal includes more than $4 million for Marshall's regional amateur sports complex. The city's $2.5 million request for expansion at the MERIT Center, however, was left out in the cold.
"It's nice to see we got one on there," said District 16A Rep. Swedzinski of Ghent. "Our goal is to have both completed, so there's going to be a lot of conversations between now and the end of session. We'll be emphasizing the MERIT Center as much as possible and partnering with other rural legislators to be sure their local priorities are met as well."
"We'll come up with a strategy to continue to work on the MERIT Center to see if we can move that also," said District 16 Sen. Gary Dahms of Redwood Falls. "They're both very good projects."
Although a number of southwest Minnesota projects did make Dayton's cut, Swedzinski said he would like to see more of a balance between rural vs. metro in the final bonding bill.
Besides the sports complex, the other southwest Minnesota-specific projects pegged for funding in Dayton's bill included the Lewis & Clark rural water project ($20 million) and Clara City's local road construction, and water and sewer improvements to a new business park ($748,000).
More than $3 million was also recommended for renovations on the Canby and Jackson campuses of Minnesota West under the MnSCU request. Dayton also recommended $1.84 million to repair and renovate Luverne Veterans Home resident rooms, to remodel the nurses' stations and to renovate the resident bathrooms at the Silver Bay Home.
Those that didn't make the cut were the city of Redwood Falls's request of $7.8 million to restore the Redwood Lake Reservoir and the city of Montevideo's bids for roughly $8 million to build a veterans' home in the southeast part of the city and about $3.1 million to finish the city's flood control system.
"We constantly battle this in rural areas; the metro seems to get tons more funding," Swedzinski said. "There are some rural districts with no projects, so from a rural-versus-metro perspective, where are all the funds going? They're going to big, metro projects."
Dahms said that while the Iron Range fared better overall compared to other rural areas, he was pleased to see outstate Minnesota projects get recognized. Still, he said he would "like to see a little better shift throughout the state. If you look back over a period of years, sometimes certain parts of the state do better than others."
The sports complex was included in the House Capital Investment bill a year ago that made it to the floor, and Swedzinski is confident it will be included again this year. Leadership from both the House and Senate have visited Marshall to learn more about the projects - Democrats LeRoy Stumpf on the Senate side and Alice Hausman on the House side.
"I took a hard vote last session and broke with party leadership to make sure Marshall was represented in the bonding bill (last year)," Swedzinski said. "I think that will carry some weight. Alice Hausman was in Marshall last year, and we had some leadership from the Senate here as well, and Gov. Dayton was here for the pheasant opener (in 2012). If we can keep politics out of it, I think we've got a chance."
Dahms said last year's Senate bonding bill that never got publicized because it didn't make it to the Senate floor also included the sports complex. He speculates that the Senate bill will be somewhere in the range of $800 million to $850 million.
"I feel we've got a very good opportunity to move this through the process," Dahms said. "There seems to be some good interest in the projects throughout the bonding committee in the House and Senate. But we don't want to take for granted we'll automatically get it just because it's in the governor's bonding bill. We'll need to keep nurturing it forward and working it through the process."