John Thorson Remarks as Prepared in Support of the Omnibus Capital Investment Bill (HF337)

Apr 14 2021

Mr. Chair, members of the committee, thank you.

My name is John Thorson, with LIUNA Minnesota / North Dakota. We are Minnesota’s Infrastructure union representing more than 12,000 skilled construction laborers who build and maintain the critical infrastructure necessary for Minnesota’s economic prosperity.

COVID pandemic triggered an unusually sudden, historically deep, and as we now see, the most uneven economic downturn in modern history. It has resulted in large setbacks for workers and businesses in the construction industry, hitting communities of color and Greater Minnesota especially hard. 

Recovery from economic hardship of this scale and severity is greatly aided by robust investments to help jumpstart our economy and get thousands of people back to work.

I’m here to share our support for the projects outlined in the DE amendment to HF 337 and to call out the critical investments to roads and bridges, water infrastructure and rebuilding Minneapolis and Saint Paul following civil unrest:

Roads and Bridges. We support the $10 million for Local Road Improvement Grants and $30 million for the Local Bridge Replacement Program. Because we know Minnesota has more than 600 structurally deficient bridges and nearly 5000 miles of highway in poor condition today. 

Water Infrastructure. Two key investments are the $15 million to the Public Facilities Authority Water for wastewater and drinking water projects in Greater Minnesota and importantly, an equal amount of $15 million to the Inflow and Infiltration mitigation for communities across the Metro area. Because we know that communities in every part of our state are burdened with aging water infrastructure.

Communities affected by Civil Unrest. LIUNA supports $300 million in Appropriation Bonds to repair, rebuild, and revitalize Minneapolis and St. Paul businesses and neighborhoods, which saw decades of BIPOC and immigrant community investments destroyed last year during a single week of unrest.

Because in Minnesota, we show up for one another when disaster strikes any community – whether it’s flooding in Albert Lea, Duluth or St. Peter, tornados in North Minneapolis, Rogers or Wadena. It’s what we do. It’s who we are. 

Our leaders and government have a duty to help Minnesotans rebuild their lives and strengthen our communities after such events. 

Finally, these investments will put hundreds of local, skilled construction workers employed by local contractors on the job. 

This an excellent opportunity for BIPOC, new Americans, women and veterans throughout the state to launch life-long, family-supporting careers with the support of tuition-free, earn-while-you-learn, registered union apprenticeships.

Thank you for your time.