To bond or not to bond ... that is the question facing state lawmakers this session.
Bonding bills are usually considered during even-numbered years but Gov. Mark Dayton's call on Monday for the borrowing of nearly $1 billion for state projects received varying responses.
Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker and chair of the House Capital Investment Committee, said that perhaps a small bonding bill could be considered for emergency purposes. He wasn't enthusiastic about a larger bonding bill considering the state's huge budget shortfall.
"If we start focusing on that (a bonding bill) our focus gets lost," Howes said.
He said only 25 percent of the bonding projects approved in the last legislative session have been let.
"All of these are 'shovel ready' but someone forgot to buy a shovel," the lawmaker said.
Rep. John Ward, DFL-Brainerd, said Dayton's proposals would help create jobs and perform necessary projects.
"It's about jobs," he said.
Ward said Dayton's decision to let the Legislature set its own priorities for roughly half of the bonding money he proposed was an example of attempting to reach collaborative solutions.
"I applaud the governor for reaching out to us Democrats, Republicans and the Legislature," he said.
In a news release, Ward said Dayton's bonding proposal included roof repairs for Central Lakes College, rehabilitation and repair of access roads in a wildlife management area, at the area office in Brainerd and at the Brainerd Regional Human Services Center.
"Particularly in this difficult economy, it makes sense to focus on refurbishment projects," Ward said. "Since these are paint-brush projects, they will create jobs as soon as they are given the green light to move forward."
Howes said projects that might be considered for an emergency bonding bill could include flood mitigation and refurbishing projects that are "absolutely ready to go" for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and the University of Minnesota.
"It's stuff we have to do anyway," Howes said.
Another need that might meet emergency criteria is repair work for a Mississippi River bridge in Coon Rapids, Howes said. Improvements there might help keep Asian carp from Mille Lacs lake he said.
A House member since 1999, Howes didn't think the governor's unusual plan of listing his bonding priorities and letting the Legislature decide on the other half of the bonding expenditures was the proper procedure. He compared that plan to parents taking their children to the grocery store and letting them spend half of the grocery money on their own.
"The governor should be the adult in the room and put his proposal forward," Howes said.
Overall, Howes said, Dayton has been moving forward in a good manner but the lawmaker objected to the governor referring to Republican efforts to cut the budget as piecemeal.
"You have to put it (the budget solution) together one piece at a time," Howes said.
MIKE O'ROURKE may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5860.