As a civil engineer and small-business owner who employs workers in Minnesota’s road construction industry, I am appalled by the announcement from Republicans in our state legislature that they will block passage of the capital bonding bill until Governor Walz relinquishes his emergency powers to fight COVID-19.
All corners of our state desperately need bond funds to create jobs and make critical improvements to roads, bridges, educational facilities, housing, and public areas. The urgency is real: my peers in the American Society of Civil Engineers evaluated Minnesota’s infrastructure across nine categories in 2018 and gave us a poor C grade.
As during previous financial crises like the Great Depression, 9/11 attacks in 2001, and 2008 recession, comprehensive state bonding would enable construction companies, engineering firms, and public agencies to provide reliable jobs at living wages to thousands of distressed workers who have lost their jobs or had their hours cut due to the pandemic.
Infrastructure funding should be nonpartisan, especially now with unemployment spiking and tax revenues falling. Workers in all construction trades and oversight could work or be trained to work on bonded projects over the next two-plus years. These jobs would bring much-needed income and hope to hard-working Minnesotans and their families, who will then support our state’s economic recovery.
Governor Walz has collaborated with healthcare experts, business leaders, and state and federal officials to make decisions that time and data have proven to be effective. Everyone wants our state to reopen safely and soon, and outdoor work is among the safest in that reopening. The bonding bill would make more of it available rapidly.
The massive health and economic threats facing us require that members of both parties work in good faith towards solutions free from political games, so it is disappointing and ironic that the very Republican politicians criticizing Governor Walz for reopening the state too slowly are the same people blocking relief for thousands of Minnesotans.
If their intent is not a deeply-cynical strategy to hold badly-needed infrastructure work as ransom to weaken the Governor’s ability to protect our health and reduce the number of fatalities from COVID-19, I invite them to offer an alternative explanation for their actions.