Minnesota’s Infrastructure Union Responds to Updated Budget Projection: Pass a $2.6 Billion Bonding Bill

May 5 2020

Contact: Liz Xiong 
[email protected]

Saint Paul, MN – Today, the Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) office released an updated budget projection with a $2.4 billion deficit for the current biennium, and a revenue decline of $3.6 billion and an expenditure increase of $391 million. The MMB concluded that the State’s $2.5 billion budget reserve is in sound shape to mitigate the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, although our future economic health remains volatile. LIUNA Minnesota and North Dakota, Minnesota’s infrastructure union, urge state legislators to pass a $2.6 billion bonding bill to stimulate economic recovery and keep Minnesotans working well into the future. 

“Today’s budget projection is all the more reason why our state leaders need to pass a $2.6 billion bonding bill to help Minnesotans overcome the hardship of the COVID-19 pandemic, while also investing in local jobs and projects,” said Joel Smith, President and Business Manager of LIUNA Minnesota & North Dakota. “Our state budget reserve is strong because we have responsible and forward-thinking leaders in Minnesota. This is a critical time for our leaders to come together and approve a construction jobs bill that meets Minnesota’s infrastructure needs and jumpstarts the economy.”

Construction workers were deemed essential and many have been able to continue working during the pandemic in a safe manner, avoiding greater job losses and larger deficits. A $2.6 billion bonding bill is a tool that will expedite the state’s economic recovery like no other.

Tony Kelly, Business Manager of LIUNA Local 363, which represents City of Minneapolis and City of Saint Paul public works, parks and recreation and public housing workers said unions should be part of the answer to help leaders continue vital services and meet the needs of the COVID-19 crisis. “Our frontline members’ work is more important than ever and we depend heavily on local government aid to make that happen,” said Kelly. “Our members are working every single day to provide safe drinking water, fix local streets, maintain our parks and urban forests, and keep our public housing properties safe and maintained for our most vulnerable. As leaders manage the financial crisis, they must remember cuts to local governments will be felt disproportionately by the very men and women who continue to serve during the pandemic so that the rest of society can function and be safe.”

“The Rochester area is expected to see major population and economic growth over the next 20 years, but without bonding investments in local jobs and projects here, our crumbling infrastructure will hold our community and businesses back,” said Sheldon Steele, LIUNA Local 405 Business Manager. “Construction workers who update and build our infrastructure, safe drinking water and utility systems in this area are from here. Hundreds of our members are without jobs right now and if it stays that way, our community’s ability to recover from the pandemic and our quality of life will be undermined due to delayed and inadequate funding from our state leaders.” LIUNA Local 405 represents general construction laborers in the Rochester area.

“Minnesotans want safe roads and bridges to travel on along with multi-modal transit options, and our state leaders should take advantage of the current environment to approve a large bonding bill while interest rates are at historic lows and the economic outlook is looking more and more concerning,” said Joe Fowler, LIUNA Local 563 Business Manager. Local 563 represents general construction laborers in the Twin Cities Metro, Mankato, Saint Cloud and all of North Dakota. “For our members who are currently out of work and their families, this crisis is debilitating. Our state has fortunately built one of the sturdiest financial reserves in the nation and we now need to draw on those savings to help our communities meet the difficulties they are facing at this moment and to set our state up for a more durable comeback.”

“The budget update produced no surprises, but it’s still awfully disappointing,” said Dan Olson, LIUNA Local 1091 Business Manager and International Representative. "Our economy in Northern Minnesota was already in rough shape before COVID-19, and now it is desperate. We need our Legislature to come together and make the right decision to approve the largest financially responsible bonding package. Thousands of our neighbors are ready to work and urgently need the family-supporting construction jobs bonding investments create.” LIUNA Local 1091 represents general construction laborers from the Duluth-Superior area.

Shawn Braford serves as LIUNA Local 1097 Business Manager, which represents general construction laborers from the Iron Range. “We have an unprecedented number of workers on the bench because jobs have drastically declined with iron mines shutting down and PolyMet delayed,” said Braford. “We need a robust bonding bill, and we need the Governor to approve the Line 3 Replacement. We need bonding and major projects like Line 3 to move forward to put thousands of Minnesotans to work, which will also grow our state and local tax revenues.”