Build it! Build it!” chanted the men and women in hard hats and orange work vests who lined the halls around the House chambers Thursday.
The rain outside had given many of them a day off work, and they headed to the Capitol, where storm clouds of a different sort were gathering. Workers say they need the jobs that would come with a new stadium and millions of dollsars worth of construction projects that would come with a bonding bill.
“We have unemployment like we haven’t seen since the Great Depression,” said Harry Melander, president of the Minnesota State Building & Construction Trades Council. “Things are starting to improve a bit. But if in fact leadership moves a strong bonding bill and the stadium forward, it’ll be a great boost our industry and the regional economy.”
As union workers and football fans crowded the halls, Republican leaders in the House and Senate were making plans to bring a bonding bill up for a vote later on Thursday, and bring the stadium bill to the floor on Monday. The workers were anxious to hear whether their local projects were going to make it into the final version of the bill.
“Republicans have been rather skinflints on the bonding bill. You can quote me on that,” said St. Paul carpenter John Swanson. “This is time to build and take care of Minnesota projects across the state, not just in the metro area, but around the whole state.”
Swanson added: “I’m here for jobs. I’m here for the Vikings. I’m here for the people of the state of Minnesota. I do not want this to become a Omaha, Neb., when the Vikings go south.” Howard Jensen came up from Rochester, where he’s worked as a carpenter on plenty of projects over the years that were built with bonding dollars.
“It was a rain day, we came up here to take care of business,” said Jensen, who is hoping the bonding bill will send more projects to his hometown. “We’re after a bonding bill for a civic center we have down there and just overall more bridges, more highway work, just kind of get things fixed up in the infrastructure.”
Gov. Mark Dayton, speaking to a mostly Republican audience at the annual Minnesota Business Partnership dinner, repeated his familiar attack on the House GOP, blaming them for a legislative impasse on transportation.