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Wright County News

Posted on: July 30, 2020

Potter Explains Ramifictions of State Legislature Being Unable to Pass Bonding Bill

When the Minnesota Legislature recessed July 21 without passing a bonding bill – the third time in 2020 state legislators adjourned without a bonding bill agreement – reasons cited was that it was different than the previous bonding bill version that was on the table when the Legislature recessed June 19 without an agreement.

The good news for Wright County is that funding for a dental clinic for low-income individuals from throughout the region remained part of the bill – garnering bipartisan support – but a pair of road projects that remained in the bonding bill in June were gone in the July bill presentation.

Wright County Commissioner Mike Potter explained that the most recent special session was essentially a deadline for getting a bonding bill done in this year because of the timeline that has to follow it.

“If you get the bonding bill passed and the governor puts it out for bids to investors, the sales take place in August,” Potter said. “The funds typically aren’t committed until July 1st the following year, but some can get an advance on it for certain projects. We’ve done that with some highway projects before. By not having it approved by the Legislature in this last special session and having it signed by the governor, you don’t have time to put it out for bids, get it back and approved. The timing just doesn’t work out.”

Potter said he is confident that funding for the dental clinic will remain in the bonding bill because of the strong legislative support of the project and that the bonding bill will most likely be one of the initial topics addressed and approved when the 2021 Legislature convenes.

“It’s on hold for now,” Potter said. “My guess is that the bonding bill will likely be the first thing out of the gate when they meet next year. Over the years, this has happened before and, when it has, the bonding bill that got carried over is typically the first piece of business they get done.”

One of the reasons why the bonding bill didn’t get completed was that the bill had several revisions in between the end of the special session in June and the convening of the July special season. Two of those projects had a direct impact on Wright County – the I-94 project between Albertville and Monticello and the Hwy. 55 preliminary design and right-of-way acquisition between Plymouth and Loretto that serves as a pipeline for many Wright County commuters who work in the Twin Cities metro area. Both projects were part of the bill that was discussed in June. Neither were in the bill that was presented to the Senate and House of Representatives in July.

As it pertains to the dental clinic, which is going to be operated by a non-profit to provide care for those on medical assistance (MA) or Minnesota Care, Potter said the need for the clinic is imperative. Currently, the closest such clinic is in Brooklyn Park and wait times are considerable. He has answered numerous constituent questions about the need for such a clinic and said that it will save taxpayer money because those who don’t get proper dental care typically have serious health issues that bring them to medical facilities.

“What I hope people understand is that the dental clinic will save us money in the long run,” Potter said. “Any time an MA patient goes to the emergency room, the county pays 100 percent of the cost – and it is a significant cost. And, if the treatment they get doesn’t fix the problem, they’re going to be back in the emergency room again and we will pay 100 percent of cost, too.”

Potter said the climate in St. Paul among Republicans and Democrats has become very contentious with neither side willing to give in to the demands of the other party and unwilling to reach a compromise that both can agree upon. While he anticipates the bonding bill will be passed early in the 2021 session, Potter said it is disappointing that it couldn’t have got finalized because there are many projects throughout the state that have been impacted.

“It’s sad that it didn’t happen,” Potter said. “Both sides are pointing fingers at the other, but neither is 100 percent to blame. They’ve been butting heads in St. Paul for some time now and this is the end result of that – neither side gets what they want and the people who were depending on the bonding are the ones left holding the bag.”

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