That old saying seems to describe what happened in St. Paul, at least as it concerns the requested funding for several projects in Polk County including the $30 million Regional Solid Waste Expansion Project.

    “All’s well that ends well.”

    That old saying seems to describe what happened in St. Paul, at least as it concerns the requested funding for several projects in Polk County including the $30 million Regional Solid Waste Expansion Project.

    The second phase of funding for that project was included in the bonding bill that was approved by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Dayton. In fact, all of the major appropriation bills were approved and signed by governor with one sticky exception.  

    That one sticky exception is, of course, the line item veto in the government finance bill. That veto removed the $65 million needed to run the House and Senate over the next two years.

    Because of the importance of that funding, the veto action could keep this year’s legislative process from coming to an end for several weeks. The governor used the veto to try to renegotiate provisions in the tax bill that involve estate and business property tax cuts and the elimination of the automatic tobacco tax increases. He also wants to address teacher licensure regulations that are in the education finance bill and there’s also the issue of wanting to grant driver licenses to undocumented immigrants.

    So, stay tuned as these things remain in the news.

Polk County project

    For Polk County, the $9.5 million that was included in the $998 million bonding bill was key to having this $30 million solid waste expansion project move forward. The first phase of financing for the project ($8 million) had been approved during the 2015 session of the legislature. The second phase of the two-part funding process was in legislation that fell victim to some last-ditch maneuvering at the end of the 2016 session. That funding was finally approved this year.

    If you have been adding the numbers, the $9.5 million and the $8 million appropriations figures don’t add up to the $30 million total needed for the project. This $12.5 million gap will require local financing.

    As the host-county for the six-county solid waste organization and owner of the Resource Recovery Facility (incinerator) in Fosston, Polk County will be on the hook for most of that total… but not for all of it.

    Since the project includes new transfer stations in Crookston and in partner counties Beltrami (at Bemidji) and Hubbard (at Park Rapids), the cost of those stations not covered by the grant dollars will become the responsibility of the individual counties.

    When all is sorted out, Polk County will have a local cost-share of something in area of $7 million. To ease the concern of tax-conscious readers, which we all are, it must be noted that the bonds sold by Polk County will be paid back through the collection of tip fees when the waste is delivered to the incinerator at Fosston…. and not by a bump in your property tax bill.

    In the end, Polk and its partner counties will be well positioned for long into the future and will have what the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says will be the best solid waste program in the state. And since the debt service for the local cost-share of the project (those bonds) won’t end up on your property tax bill that sounds like a big winner to me.

The ‘Special Session’ problem

    As for what goes on in St. Paul with all of the games that are played at the end of the session, there is a solution.

    The solution is this: At some point in the hours before the scheduled end of the session, there should a drop-dead point at which no more amendments would be allowed, no filibustering could occur, no provisions to “suspend the rules” could be used and no other measures could be implemented to complicate the process. The politics would have to end. Bills would have to be voted up or down on the state that they are in at that time. No changes. Either approve or reject the bill as it is… and then go home.

    This wouldn’t prevent any of the political moves that are used during the session, just make them end at a reasonable point without any of the stunts that lead to an extra session.

    Thoughts expressed in this column are those of the author and are not necessarily a reflection of the opinions of the other members of the Polk County Board of Commissioners