Editor's Note: Rick Hansen represents District 39A in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
The 2012 Legislative Session is just a few days away, scheduled to begin on January 24. After last year’s difficult session, government shutdown, and eventual special session, we once again have an opportunity to truly tackle the challenges facing our state.
Traditionally, the primary focus of each even-year legislative session is prioritizing capital investment projects — more commonly known as bonding. These projects can include construction and repairs of roads and bridges, flood mitigation, buildings on college campuses, waste water treatment plants, parks and trails, among others.
Investing in Minnesota’s infrastructure is an essential part of sustaining and enhancing our economic recovery. Bonding helps small businesses and communities grow by building the long-term infrastructure needed to help businesses be successful in the future. In addition, bonding right now is a good deal for Minnesota taxpayers. By getting projects in the pipeline early, we can take advantage of low interest rates, competitive bids, and get thousands of unemployed back on the job for the spring construction season.
It’s important to remember that bonding is a long-term strategic investment. There is a difference between borrowing for construction of long-lasting public facilities and borrowing to balance a budget deficit with tobacco bonds. Bonding for infrastructure is similar to a mortgage for your home. It is fiscally responsible to borrow for a long-term fixed asset at a low interest rate, but putting your groceries or gas on a high interest credit card can drive up debt quickly.
High-value projects that build and improve local infrastructure will enhance our standard of living and provide long-term economic benefits for Minnesotans. These are investments in the future of our state and ones well-worth making.
One major part of Minnesota’s infrastructure in need of bonding money is transportation, and more specifically, public transit. We’ve already seen the transformation of St. Paul’s Union Depot back into a multi-functional transportation facility. By the end of this year, the Depot will serve many modes of transit, including Amtrak passenger rail to Chicago and the Pacific Northwest, Greyhound and Jefferson Lines intercity buses, Metro Transit and other regional buses, bicycles and pedestrians. The Central Corridor Light Rail Line will begin service in 2014 as well. The Depot will also be ready to handle the Rush Line and Red Rock commuter rail lines, as well as high-speed rail to Chicago.
In addition, a study was recently completed to investigate the feasibility of various transit options for a proposed Robert Street transit corridor. Our area is continuing to grow and develop and transportation congestion will continue to grow worse. Transit service in many areas of the county still remains minimal, or non-existent. We need to invest in worthwhile transit opportunities to reduce this congestion.
I also support bonding money to link any proposed transit in our area into the Union Depot. These transit improvements help our entire region. I support the passage of a comprehensive and sizeable bonding bill that incorporates these projects.
I’ve been holding town hall meetings in the past few weeks — thank you to those who attended. I anticipate that many other legislative issues will arise during session; please feel free to contact me to offer your input, comments or concerns. You can reach me by phone at 651-296-6828or email at email@example.com. You can also send mail to my office, room 247 in the State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155.
I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for the honor of serving you in the state legislature.