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Two Duluth-area projects included in Gov. Walz’s bonding bill proposal

MINNESOTA — Minnesota Governor Tim Walz laid out his $1.27 billion bonding bill proposal Monday, and, in it, funding for two big Duluth-area projects.

The proposed funds include $11 million for Northern Lights Express and $4.3 million, specifically, for the University of Minnesota – Duluth.

Those who support the Northern Lights Express, which aims to connect the Twin Ports to the Twin Cities through a high-speed rail, have one word in response to Tuesday’s news.

“Ecstatic is the only thing I can say,” North Shore Scenic Railroad Executive Director Ken Buehler said. “This has been a great day.”

Over at UMD, officials say they also feel uplifted by Governor Walz’s announcement.

“It’s great to see that he continues to prioritize education, and prioritize higher education,” UMD Director of Marketing and Public Relations Lynne Williams said. “We’re very pleased.”

Buehler says the Governor has put them in a position they’ve never been before, allowing them to already begin building parts of their project.

“We have made it into other bonding bills in the past. We’ve been in legislative bonding bills in the House and Senate, and we have indeed gotten funding from bonding before,” Buehler said. “We have never before been in the governor’s suggested list of bonding projects, so this is a first for Northern Lights Express.”

The bonding proposal includes $11 million to leverage matching federal funds for projects like NLX.

With an 80-percent federal funds, 20-percent state and local funds requirement already in place, Buehler says the Northern Lights Express would garner four federal dollars for every one dollar the state puts up if the governor’s proposal is approved.

“This is just the beginning,” Buehler said. “It’s like the beginning of a rugby game called the scrum, where everybody gets in and tries to get at the ball. That’s where we are right now.”

UMD is in a similar spot.

“We always use the full support of the full request, and we’re hoping that the Senate and the House will continue to support that,” Williams said.”And, at the end of session, we will have a productive bonding capital investment bill.”

Governor Walz has propesed to put forth $117.7 million in funding for preservation across all University of Minnesota campuses, and, specifically, a $4.3 million renovation to UMD’s A.B. Anderson Hall.

“It can benefit us for decades to come, and we’ve got a lot of beautiful buildings on this campus, and some that are in dire need of being taken care of,” Williams said. “The students, the faculty, the staff, the community, community members who use these spaces — a lot of people benefit from this work.”

Republican leaders have already said $1.27 billion is too much, so Governor Walz will need to gain some GOP support because bonding bills require a three-fifths majority and Republicans control the Senate.

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Gamiel Hall

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