The Docket: Blue Earth County says bonding bill must be passed as lawmakers head into special session

The Docket: Blue Earth County says bonding bill must be passed as lawmakers head into special session

BLUE EARTH COUNTY, Minn. (KEYC) - Lawmakers are back for a second special session this week and have listed a bonding bill and police reform as top priorities this time around.

At the local level, county officials are saying a bonding bill must be passed this month.

Here’s what’s on The Docket this week of July 13th, 2020.

Blue Earth County officials have said transportation has taken a financial hit over the past few years.

Now, due to COVID-19, the funding the county gets from sales tax dollars has also gone down.

Blue Earth County Public Works Director Ryan Thilges said the county needs a bonding bill to help fund several infrastructure projects, including four bridges that are in critical condition.

“All in those four bridge projects that are designed on the shelf waiting for state bridge bond money are nearly $2 million worth of construction projects that with this bridge bonding, we could put to work almost instantaneously,” he said.

With fewer cars on the road due to the pandemic, officials are also anticipating a decrease in the Highway Users Tax Distribution Fund, a funding source made up of gas tax revenues, license fees and motor vehicle sales tax.

“A large component of the HUTDF is through gas tax, and so we’re actually anticipating that our revenues for 2021 from the Highway Users Tax Distribution Fund will be decreased by about 15 percent,” Thilges said.

Thilges said the funding makes up a large portion of the annual budget, bringing in around $10 million a year.

“And to see a 15 percent decrease in something like that really makes it even more difficult to get some of these critical infrastructure projects out the door,” he said.

Lawmakers like Rep. Jeremy Munson (R - Lake Crystal) and Sen. Nick Frentz (DFL - North Mankato) would also like to see a bonding bill passed.

“Within the individual projects, we see the things we’ve been talking about all along. Upkeep for our state facilities, housing, infrastructure, water quality and transportation,” Frentz said.

Munson is hoping for a more modest take.

“This kind of feels like Groundhog Day again, coming into special session without an agreement, but I hope that the House and the Senate can agree to a very modest bonding bill, maybe focusing on wastewater infrastructure projects and just essential road and bridge projects,” he said.

Meanwhile, police reform is also a priority for lawmakers.

During the last special session, House DFL proposals included having the state attorney general prosecute police-involved deaths and restoring the right to vote for felons upon release from prison.

Democrats and Republicans were unable to come to an agreement on these proposals.

Other ideas included banning chokeholds and requiring officers to intervene when excessive force is used, which both parties agreed on.

Gov. Tim Walz is also extending his emergency powers by 30 days.

Munson has sued the governor to end his powers, claiming them to be unconstitutional.

That trial is scheduled for Thursday.

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