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Governor’s Bonding Bill: Good for Minnesotans

February 01, 2012 By Glen Johnson, Business Manager IUOE, Minnesota

Governor Mark Dayton's proposed bonding bill to repair and build infrastructure is just what Minnesota needs to show business leaders that we're returning to our tradition of being a great place to live with leaders attuned to attracting and retaining both small businesses and large-scale corporations including the 20 Fortune 500 companies that call Minnesota home.

This state has a proud history of outstanding education, the foundation of an above-average work force. Refurbishing and upgrading our aging teaching and training facilities is a clear priority. We should ensure we can provide the well-trained, highly educated workforce that CEOs seek. Business owners also know the value of a solid, reliable infrastructure for moving their workers, goods, and services.

The Governor has proposed a more ambitious goal than the majority party, which has characterized his bonding bill as a jobs program. As side-effects go, putting tens of thousands of Minnesotans back to work in a variety of job settings isn't a bad thing.

Quality public services, training, and education, are exactly what our business climate needs. That's also an effective prescription for restoring robust revenue streams to the state's operating budget—clearly a key to long-term fiscal balance.

At the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland at the end of January, the focus was on driving the interlocked international economies back from the brink by spotlighting the crucial role of middle-class workers with disposable income. Demand is the basic driver of economic activity, that's true in our local economy, too. When more of our Minnesotans are working at good jobs and can provide for their families, the larger economy benefits.

The median wage in this country has remained flat while GDP per capita doubled during the past 25 years. The cure is preparing Americans to take on the increasingly complex, good-paying jobs that employers say have become hard to fill. Minnesota needs to re-tool our ability to provide specialized training that fits the new economy. Restoring and enhancing the state's teaching and transportation systems so we're once again a leader in training people with the specialized skills to be anything from crane operators to spine surgeons while moving people and goods around safely and efficiently is a savvy, common-sense plan.

While I share the concerns of those examining our capacity to pay off the bond, Minnesotans would benefit quickly from the work on everything from highways and light rail transit projects to civic centers and educational facilities. Their productive work will not only get money circulating—stimulating demand, growth and more hiring within our communities—but also set the stage for the future while helping the state budget by increasing near-term revenue without raising taxes, simply by putting more Minnesotans to work. The Governor's proposal sends a message to business leaders that Minnesota is renewing its commitment to excellence via infrastructure and workforce investments today so businesses will thrive tomorrow.

Passing the proposed bill quickly will bolster our reputation. Action sends a clear, strong signal that Minnesota is a great place to live and do business, with visionary elected leaders working on long-term plans that will keep us out front. I urge the legislature to put the good of people first. There's plenty of time for posturing and scoring political points against our Governor later, during campaign speeches.

Glen Johnson is the Business Manager of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49, representing roughly 10,000 Minnesota workers as well as thousands more throughout the Dakotas.

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