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What Northern Minnesota is asking legislators to fund with bonding bill

Outside shot of the building with a deep blue sky.
Heidi Holtan
The Minnesota State Capitol building.

The 2024 legislative session is underway, and the infrastructure package is the top priority. Gov. Walz recommended a fraction of the funds needed to fill local requests.

ST. PAUL — Monday, Feb. 12, marks the beginning of the 2024 legislative session in Minnesota.

After last year’s onslaught of new legislation, this session is expected to be slower-paced, and legislators don’t have the same budget surplus to spend.

The biggest priority this year is to pass an infrastructure package, otherwise known as a bonding bill.

As the Legislature convened, DFL Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman said she’s looking forward to the session ahead.

"Whether it's college buildings — new ones or the ones that need repairs — or wastewater treatment or local roads and bridges, these are things that we can work together in the state's interest and get done this year," Hortman said.

Northern Minnesota asked for $473 million in bonding funds, a small portion of the almost $3 billion of local government requests. But Gov. Tim Walz only recommended $40 million of his $1 billion infrastructure plan be set aside for local grants.

The region’s requests range drastically in size and scope, from $57,000 for south St. Louis County fairground upgrades to $50 million for the new Beltrami County Correctional Facility.

Most local governments are asking for between $1 million and $10 million for various upgrades and infrastructure projects.

The region’s largest request is more than $61 million for the Northwestern Minnesota Nine-County Regional Hub & Spoke.

The project would develop a new construction and demolition debris waste management system in regional solid waste processing centers, largely to address water contamination and other environmental concerns. It would serve counties from Marshall to Cass, including the Leech Lake, Red Lake and White Earth reservations.

Walz recommended another $3 million for public infrastructure through the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure Program, which provides up to 50% of the funding for sewers, streets and other utilities through competitive grants.

Other projects the governor recommended funding include a $5 million renovation to the Hibbing National Guard Armory, $4 million to renovate and expand the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s regional facility in Bemidji and $12 million to reconstruct or replace Minnesota Department of Natural Resources offices, with priority given to storage at the Hibbing Drill Core Library.

The bonding bill will require bipartisan support, as three-fifths of both the House and Senate are required for the state to take on debt.

Megan Buffington joined the KAXE newsroom in 2024 after graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Originally from Pequot Lakes, she is passionate about educating and empowering communities through local reporting.
Larissa Donovan has been in the Bemidji area's local news scene since 2016, joining the KAXE newsroom in 2023 after several years as the News Director for the stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting.