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Questions linger as state, local officials prepare for infrastructure cash

18December 2021

Minnesota leaders are eagerly anticipating a wave of federal infrastructure funding. But as state and local officials sifted through the plan over the past week, key questions remain.

The state expects to get around $6.8 billion, but the exact amounts going to different programs are not yet certain. Also unclear is the date when the money will start to arrive, or the amount Minnesota needs to set aside in matching dollars.

However, as legislators gathered Tuesday for their first review of the funding that Congress passed last month, they were firm on one point: The influx of cash will have a major impact on the state.

“It is one of a trio of bills that I think will be remembered over the last 100 years as truly transformative in American history and truly transformative — generational in fact — in terms of our investment and commitment to our country’s infrastructure,” said House Transportation Committee Chairman Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis.

The roughly $1 trillion infrastructure law includes funding for transportation, broadband, water, cybersecurity and more. Congress still needs to pass an appropriations bill before the bulk of the money starts going to states, said Ben Husch with the National Conference of State Legislatures.

He anticipates the money will be appropriated when the current continuing resolution — a measure that temporarily funds federal government — ends on Feb. 18. That delay gives the state time to learn about the bill and plan how they want to use the funding, Husch noted.

Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher said the agency wants to work with local partners to determine what projects to advance using the federal money. MnDOT and the Minnesota Transportation Alliance held a workshop Thursday on the infrastructure package, during which people weighed in on their priorities.

“It’s going to help us to clear the backlog for so many very worthy projects that have been sitting on waiting lists for a long, long time in all parts of the state,” U.S. Sen. Tina Smith told workshop attendees.

The state expects to get $4.8 billion over five years for roads and bridges. MnDOT estimates there will be a 20% match requirement, but the percentage could vary depending on the program, Erik Rudeen, MnDOT government affairs director, told state lawmakers.

Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-Falcon Heights, stressed that legislators must move quickly to authorize state matching funds to ensure Minnesota qualifies for every federal dollar possible.

“The moment it’s clear to us what money has to be set aside, and what the timeline is and does it require legislative authorization … we have a separate bill dealing just with that, and we move that quickly,” Hausman said. “We don’t let it get mucked up.”

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