Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership
This week, a broad array of environmental groups, businesses, labor unions, and communities across Minnesota had reason to celebrate as the Legislature finally passed a capital investment bill after months of negotiation. This $1.8 billion bonding bill will mostly go toward infrastructure in Minnesota, delivering benefits to residents and much-needed stimulus to the economy. While legislators admitted that it was a compromise bill, this package will go a long way to making Minnesotans safer, healthier, and more prosperous.
Great for water
For most of this year, MEP and our allies on this issue have been participating in the Fix the Pipes alliance, a coalition aligned around the goal of securing at least $300 million in bonding dollars for water infrastructure. We kept up the pressure, sending letters to lawmakers and urging our subscribers to call them and ask for this funding to be passed. At long last, the Legislature not only met our ask, but exceeded it, enacting more than $302 million in funding for water systems.
That money will go toward wastewater management, safe drinking water systems, protections from flooding, conservation techniques, new pipes, and more. In many cases, the bonds will unlock matching federal grant money. This kind of funding is especially important for small, rural communities that are often unable to cover the cost of necessary water upgrades through local property taxes alone.
Fixing and installing all this new water infrastructure will help keep pollution out of Minnesota lakes and rivers. It’s also estimated that it will create more than 7000 jobs across the state, kickstarting shovel-ready projects that have been waiting for legislative funding.
Good for transit
While the Legislature could have done better at supporting on climate- and people-friendly transportation in this bonding bill, the transit victories in the bill are significant. The Legislature fully funded the Metro Transit B Line and D Line bus rapid transit projects, which will establish two new high-frequency bus routes in the western Metro and between Minneapolis and St. Paul, respectively (see Move Minnesota’s explainer on this victory.)
More we need to do
There’s no question that this long-awaited legislation is a victory for Minnesota. But it also highlights how much more needs to be done. The cost of Minnesota’s clean water needs numbers in the billions of dollars, and we hope that this initial $302 million investment paves the way to even more investments to clean up and prevent pollution and keep Minnesotans healthy. Minnesota also has a need to update our infrastructure to meet our 21st century climate needs by restoring habitat, building more rails and bus routes, making new buildings carbon-neutral, and helping our power systems take full advantage of clean electricity. With both our economy and our environment in need of new ideas and new public investment, MEP will be working in 2021 to keep Minnesota moving forward.