It’s the old business adage, right? “You have to spend money to make money.”

    Of course, not every businessperson or capitalist or proponent of the free market buys into it. There certainly is an argument to be made that you can make money, too, by tightening the purse strings.

    In politics, boy, will you ever get a lot of disagreement on this subject. Democrats are tax-and-spenders, of course, while Republicans hate every tax on the planet and rely on the trickle-down theory to keep the economy humming.

    But what if the streets and highways are crumbling? What if the pipes underground are bursting? What if bridges are falling apart?

    Watch enough shows on HGTV and when people are shopping for a home or renovating a house, you’ll hear a lot about “bones.” Does a house have good bones? Then you can work with it. Bad bones? Forget it.

    Minnesota is thought of as a high-tax state, but in return for all that tax revenue, we are seen from the outside and we also see ourselves as enjoying a high quality of life. Minnesota is a high-quality state.

    But that doesn’t mean we aren’t falling further and further behind when it comes to repairing, improving and replacing aging infrastructure.

    Minnesota has money. You can argue all you want about projected surpluses amounting to actual dollars or just best guesses, but the fact remains that if Minnesota was facing a deficit, Republicans in the legislature would be talking about nothing but slashing budgets, and, probably, somehow, still cutting taxes. So on the flip side of that, if we have some money to invest, why be so cautious and conservative? You have to spend money to make money, and if the roads and pipes and bridges and water systems are better, those whose businesses and industries are counted on to drive our state’s economy will in turn be better off.

    Gov. Tim Walz’s first 2020 bonding bill proposal amounts to $2 billion. That’s a big number and he will never end up signing a $2 billion capital investment package. But like anyone who’s ever entered into a negotiation, his opening ask is more than he knows he’s going to get in the end. 

    Republican legislators, meanwhile, sound like they’re proposing a bonding bill this year about half as big as what Walz is floating. Do they, too, know they’ll probably have to come up some before the governor agrees to sign the capital investment bill? Probably. Hopefully.

    Which brings us to the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, of which Crookston has long been a member. CGMC leaders the other day held a conference call with Minnesota media, in which they proposed a 2020 bonding bill of $1.5 billion. Sounds reasonable enough, given Minnesota’s current financial condition. One might even call it the perfect middle-of-the-road compromise between what the governor and the state’s DFL and Republican lawmakers each want.

    In the call, the CGMC leadership stressed infrastructure and infrastructure and infrastructure again. And why not? It’s a massive need that only gets greater and more expensive with each passing year that glaring needs aren’t sufficiently addressed. They’re really hitting water projects hard; many rural Minnesota towns are staring down multi-million dollar water infrastructure projects and they certainly can’t finance them without significant assistance from the state.

    And let’s not forget another major piece of our infrastructure, another bone in our skeleton: Child care. Without  a sufficient availability of high-quality yet reasonably affordable childcare, mom and dad can’t both work. A business can’t grow. A local tax base and economy can’t expand.

    Yes, the CGMC just might be onto something.