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Editorial: The Dayton snub is disappointing

Published 9:54am Friday, January 17, 2014

It’s disappointing that Gov. Mark Dayton didn’t include the $7.5 million request to pay for half of the cost to dredge Fountain Lake in his $1 billion bonding bill. Nor did he include an additional $500,000 request for the Blazing Star Trail.

We have to admit it. The denials look like a kick in the teeth toward his fellow DFLer, District 27A state Rep. Shannon Savick of Wells.

Following heavy out-of-district spending on both sides, Savick pulled off an upset in 2012 when she beat incumbent Republican Rich Murray by about 3 percentage points. Murray in 2010 had defeated a Democrat by less than single percentage point. The district could go Republican or Democrat by a very small margin of votes in 2014. Some politicians have called District 27A a bellwether district.

One would think that Dayton — if he wants to maintain a majority of DFLers in the state Legislature, should he win a second term — would be wise enough to curry favor in districts with close margins. He could have made it seem like Savick has enough clout to get an item in his bonding bill. Apparently, she lacks that clout.

After all, the governor proposed spending $1 billion — a whole lot of money — on projects throughout the North Star State and he passed over two items near and dear to voters in Albert Lea, and Savick could not get diddly into his proposal.

Sure, he gave dollars toward the Minnesota State Colleges & Universities, some of which could end up removing asbestos at the Albert Lea campus of Riverland Community College. We cannot help but wonder: If Dayton had known some of that MnSCU money would go to Albert Lea, would he have removed it from the bill?

The dredging of the lake isn’t a project that gets noticed every time a voter drives by, like the expansions of the Rochester Civic Center and the Mankato Civic Center. But it is a long-held dream of about 80 percent of Albert Lea residents — the amount of voters who approved a half-cent sales tax at the polls in November 2005. People here want this, and watershed district officials have been asking for state assistance through bonding for six years now.

What’s more, the state bears partial responsibility for the lake being mistreated in the first place. We’re talking about the lack of state oversight of a landfill that used to be on the shore of Edgewater Bay. The state did help clean up the soils of the former landfill in 2008, but one would think that inclusion of dredging in a bonding bill would be the state helping to clean up the water, too.

After all, doesn’t government have a duty to the safety of its citizens?

Instead, Dayton would rather renovate Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis, the Palace Theater in St. Paul and the NorShor Theatre in Duluth. He gravitated toward sparkly and shiny, rather than pragmatic and responsible, in his bonding bill. Does he want people to see the construction work as they drive by and then vote for him this fall?

Now Savick will be under the gun to get the two requests into the House bonding bill. We’d be really surprised if District 27 Sen. Dan Sparks fails to get them into the Senate bonding bill.