The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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September 13, 2012

Dayton defends decisions on bonding projects

— Gov. Mark Dayton handed state construction dollars to a minor-league St. Paul ballpark and projects in Duluth and Wadena on Thursday, passing over civic centers in Rochester, Mankato and St. Cloud after the Republican-controlled Legislature punted on choosing among the regional projects.

The $25 million for the St. Paul Saints ballpark makes it the second stadium the Democratic governor has launched in less than four months.

Back in May, Dayton signed legislation to build a $975 million Vikings stadium in Minneapolis. That's also when lawmakers approved a bonding bill with a $47.5 million pot for regional projects and authority for the Dayton administration to evaluate and pick winners. Local governments submitted 90 applications totaling $288 million, guaranteeing a list of disappointed losers.

Among them were Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede, who said it was "extremely disappointing" that a $25 million expansion of the Mayo Civic Center was left out.

"We were ready to go in a month or two," Brede said. "We could have had shovels in the ground."

Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, also wasn't pleased. He defended the process used to pick the projects, but said he didn't like the way Dayton's administration ranked them.

Senjem, who heads the Senate bonding committee, said the Senate included the Mayo Civic Center in its original bonding proposal during the legislative session, but the project came out when it didn't make it into a smaller House version. Dayton included the project in his much larger bonding proposal.

"This program was our attempt to give these kind of projects a second chance," Senjem said of the civic centers, adding that it was "unimaginable" that the Saints ballpark was chosen over the Mayo Civic Center.

Dayton put the responsibility for the Rochester project's shutout on Senjem, saying as the Senate's top leader and head of the Capital Investment Committee, Senjem should have been able to get the project through the Legislature.

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