Spirit Mountain, Depot, Northern Lights Express Included in Gov. Walz’s Bonding Recommendations

Roughly $50 million is proposed to go to different entities in Northeastern Minnesota.

DULUTH, Minn.- Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’s bonding recommendations for 2022 amounts to $2.7 billion. The largest in the state’s history includes much-needed funding for Duluth and the surrounding area.

“They’re very geo-balanced across the state of Minnesota and these are projects that local folks requested. But there are projects in there that enhance our quality of life,” Gov. Walz said in a press conference at the University of Minnesota Tuesday.

Roughly $50 million is proposed to go to different entities in Northeastern Minnesota. This included an investment in Lake Superior College. 

“We started taking on the capital budget from the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth several months ago and we’ve come a long way,” said Jim Schowalter, Commissioner of the Minnesota Management and Budget Department.

$2 billion of the proposed bonding bill will be funded through the sales of General Obligation Bonds.

While Walz released his list of the capital projects and improvements he’d like to see, state lawmakers get the final say.

“And what’s exciting about this is a supermajority of the legislature agreed with that bipartisanly,” the Governor said. “In bonding bills, they tend to be the most bipartisan things we do as they need to be to get things done.”

The remaining $730 million dollars of the bill would be paid for with other bonds, all within the state’s debt management.

While a lot of the proposed bill is cash, according to Commissioner Schowalter, the state is in its best financial state in years. “The state fiscal situation is so much better than it was 18 months, 2 years ago.”

“That said, these are long-lived assets, these are things that we expect to provide benefits next year and year after that for years and decades to come,” he said.

High on the list is Duluth’s Spirit Mountain.

The governor recommends $12 million in general fund cash to renew, replace, and improve aging infrastructure, which will cost a total of $24 million.

“We know that 65% of the users are from the state of Minnesota but not from Duluth so it’s a really good regional and statewide story it makes sense that the legislature would reinvest in Spirit Mountain,” said Mayor Emily Larson.

Mayor Larson said with limited resources allocated statewide, it’s her job to request what will best serve Duluth and the region.

“I always want to see more money in different pockets as well for example the port infrastructure bonds or housing infrastructure bonds, different projects in areas where we want see more growth,” she said.

The list of proposed funds includes $200 million in bridge replacement and in his write-up for the bill, Governor Walz mentioned the Duluth Lift Bridge.

Mayor Larson said it’s not known yet if the $13 million needed for things like new paint and lighting elements on the lift bridge would be included in that $200 million.

Also on the list of recommendations is a project still in its infancy.

The governor proposed $16 million for the Northern Lights Express train service from the Metro to the Twin Ports.

“The excitement that surrounds the possible service between the cities and Duluth that having this project be something that the Governor is supportive of is a strong signal of support and I hope we can build on that.” said Kevin Gray, Administrator for St. Louis County.

And St. Louis County may also get $3.8 million in bonding dollars to fix the historic Depot’s H-VAC system mechanical and electrical system.

“With the beauty of old buildings you also get the challenges so we need to do some real meat and potatoes investments,” Gray said.

“So a lot of the meat and potatoes as I said of investing in a structure to get it back up to speed and to put it to good use going forward,” he said.

According to the Governor, while his “local jobs and projects plan” is significantly larger than the previous record bonding bill of 2020, they are investments that need to happen.

“This is your property,” he said. “These are assets that belong to the people of Minnesota and keeping them and modernizing them.”

There were entities that did not make it on the Governor’s proposal list, such as the Duluth Armory. See their reaction here.

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