By Tim Douglass, Publisher of the Pope County Tribune
Glenwood has a stake in whether or not the legislature actually passes a bonding bill this session.
Thanks to work by Central Square Director Cheryl Larson, the Central Square staff and board, Minnewaska Area Schools and Rep. Paul Anderson, a proposal to fund improvements at Central Square was included in the bonding bill being considered by the state legislature this session.
That was the good news. But, earlier this spring, after the Minnesota House bonding committee visited Central Square, the governor did not include the local project in his selective bonding preferences. Still, the legislature does have a say in the matter and the Central Square funding is still alive.
Because the state constitution requires a 60 percent majority vote on bonding bills, this is the one major issue where members of the minority parties in each chamber get to play. That usually means that projects of interest to DFLers in the Senate and Republicans in the House are added to the project list. We’re hoping the house, with help from our area’s representatives, gets the Central Square project into the final bonding bill.
But even if that happens, it appears more unlikely that the divided legislature is going to pass much of anything this session. And this is supposed to be the year that the legislature tackles a bonding bill.
There is an informal rule in the Minnesota Legislature that sessions occurring during odd-numbered years should be devoted to crafting a two-year operating budget and those during even-numbered years should be focused on coming up with what’s called a bonding bill, which pays for public construction projects via state bonds. This is one of those even-numbered-year sessions. Yet much of the energy of the session has been toward the operating budget, mainly because of the a huge surplus.
Still, there is some sense that a bonding bill, agreed on by the senate, the house and the governor, may not be likely this session.
As always, the debate on the bonding bill will be over how much to borrow — and which projects get blessed. What we don’t know right now is whether or not the bonding bill will contain mostly state projects including roads and bridges or if it will also include local projects like the Central Square project.
Another question mark is the federal infrastructure bill that was passed last year and how that plays out for state or infrastructure spending. The governor has already proposed a $2.73 billion bonding plan. The House and Senate bonding chairs have not yet released their plans. We remain hopeful that the Central Square improvement project is included in the final plan. With the Minnewaska Area School District stepping up to be the fiscal agent for the project, it truly is something that will benefit this area, from the young to the old.
It is a worthy project and qualifies for state funding at a time when the state is flush with money. It would be great to see it included so Central Square, once Glenwood High School, can continue to be the cultural, art and educational facility for the entire area.
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Although it doesn’t feel like spring today (Monday), it was great to see Lake Minnewaska ice-free on Saturday. That always means that the winter season is behind us as we look forward to warmer days on the water, in the fields and just out and about.