DFL highlights session progress
MANKATO – Democrats in the Minnesota House are pleased with the 2014 legislataive session thus far.
Speaker of the House Paul Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis), Rep. Clark Johnson (DFL-North Mankato) and Rep. Kathy Brynaert (DFL-Mankato) provided an update on the session’s progress on Tuesday in Mankato.
“This Legislature has been very efficient this session to build on Minnesota’s economic momentum, from passing tax cuts for the middle-class Minnesotans to approving a minimum wage increase for 350,000 Minnesotans,” said Thissen.
Johnson said he was pleased with the House’s commitment to important capital investments. “It will provide a stimulus to our economy as we take advantage of relatively low interest rates to borrow funds for investments in our state’s infrastructure.”
Brynaert addressed the unfinished bonding bill. The Senate has not yet delivered its version to the House. Brynaert said it was too early to guess what would be in the final bill. Based on current estimates the total bonding bill will cover $850 million in infrastructure updates.
Proposed updates include expansions to the Mankato civic center for $14.5 million. Another $41.3 million was added for design, remodeling and construction of facilities at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter.
Audience members expressed concerns about repairs to infrastructures, specifically bridges. Mankato City Councilor Karen Foreman cited a need for an overhaul of Highway 14. “Imagine what we could do when we have the four-lane Highway 14 going.”
Thissen said there is a need for comprehensive transportation, and the issue is the next big thing the Legislature needs to tackle.
The House bonding bill currently contains $21.75 million for bridge repair and replacement and another $18 million for local road improvements. However, even with this proposed aid, it is unlikely the bonding bill would cover all needed repairs in the state.
Johnson compared the bridge and road repairs to maintaining a house. “If you don’t keep up with the maintenance of a house, everything falls apart at the same time.”
While House DFLers are optimistic about the 2014 session, their Republican peers are less enthusiastic.
Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) characterized much of the legislation as Democratic overreach. Torkelson favored a raise in the state minimum wage, but he had hoped for a moderate increase. (The wage increases from $6.15 per hour to $9.50 by 2016.) Torkelson said that by placing Minnesota in the highest wage range, employers were more likely to do business in neighboring states.
Torkelson said the approval of Senate Office building was a negative in the session.
Torkelson remains optimistic about the bonding bill. It “is the one bill they need some Republican votes to pass.” He said the bill should not go higher than $850 million.