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More Than 200 Construction Projects Impacted If Transportation Budget Not Signed Quickly

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- More than 200 construction projects are at stake if there isn't a funding in place for the next budget year within the coming days, the Minnesota Department of Transportation said.

The transportation budget, which funds road projects, state patrol and more, is among several pieces of the $52 billion total in state spending that is hanging over the legislature in the final days of the fiscal year.

The budget bills need to be signed into law by July 1 or the government would at least partially shut down, which could have wide implications on state services since the state Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that the courts can't intervene in the budgeting process to keep the government running as the Ramsey County District did in 2011.

But for transportation funding, leaders say there is urgency to pass the proposal sooner rather than later to avoid preparations for the worst case scenario.

A spokesman for MnDOT said it's "critical" to approve the bill because more than 200 state construction projects scheduled for this year—with some already underway—could be impacted.

"We're going to have to start talking to those contractors on roads and bridges by Thursday I believe, that we'll have to start slowing or shutting those down," Gov. Tim Walz said Monday.

MnDOT already sent formal notices to contractors last week of a possible government shutdown. Separately, state agencies earlier this month sent notices to state employees of the possibility of layoffs if a budget isn't complete before the end of the month.

After the 2011 government shutdown, it took MnDOT more than four years to close out all contractor claims, which cost an additional $35 million, a spokesman said by email.

"Certainly if it goes beyond this week, then we have to start taking the real actions because we can't honor those requests," Walz said. "We can't keep the contracts going ... There's costs incurred on this."

House Speaker Melissa Hortman echoed the comments on Tuesday. The bill is on the debate calendar in the House for Wednesday and the Senate already discussed the proposal Tuesday in anticipation of its passage in the House.

In addition to infrastructure projects, the transportation budget agreement includes money for body cameras for state patrol and capitol security and funding to bring more state troopers on board—a move that the Department of Public Safety says hasn't happened since 2005.

The state will also pay to outfit 12,000 school buses with security cameras to catch drivers who ignore bus stop signals. The Minnesota Sheriffs' Association estimates that 100,000 drivers unlawfully pass school buses while the stop-arm is extended per year, and only a fraction of that number is ticketed for that violation.

"I think it's a big deal and really going to save lives of some kids in the future," said Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, Tuesday.


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