Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday called on the Legislature to swiftly approve the spending of $105 million in federal funding on 28 road and bridge projects across the state.
Dayton said the state risks losing the federal dollars if legislators do not provide the final sign-off by the end of next week, an outcome the Dayton administration said it has warned of since last fall.
Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Charles Zelle said any further delay would shorten the time available to complete the more than two dozen projects, which would require putting out new bids for the work to contractors.
But a spokesman for the Federal Highway Administration undercut the argument that the state risks losing the federal funding. The spokesman said that if the Legislature gives final approval in May, when it is expected to adjourn after approving a new two-year state budget, it should receive the federal funding for the projects.
Language authorizing the $105 million in state funds for the projects — for which the state would get immediate federal reimbursement — is already contained in both the Senate and House transportation budget bills, as Dayton pointed out in a letter to House and Senate transportation chairs, Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, and Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson.
Dayton nonetheless urged lawmakers to pass a stand-alone bill and have it to his desk by March 31.
“I urge swift action and ask that you pass the $105 million authorization outside of the overall transportation finance discussion with no politically motivated amendments, earmarks or poison pill policy provisions,” Dayton wrote in a letter to House and Senate leaders.
“These funds are literally sitting in a bank account when they could be used to put more people to work to improve our road and bridge infrastructure beginning this spring,” he wrote.
In a statement, Torkelson said the authorization has already passed one House finance committee and a House floor vote is pending.
“I look forward to working with the Senate and the Governor to secure this critical road funding for Minnesota,” Torkelson said in a statement.
Most of the projects are for road and bridge work, and they span the entire state.