Lawmakers debate Red Lake reservation spending
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota lawmakers do not agree on how much to spend on public works projects, but also do not agree on what projects should be funded.
An example Monday was whether the state should fund a new social services building and school on the Red Lake American Indian Reservation.
"What I see happening now is not only are we going to ask our taxpayers to build a school ... now we are going to be paying to put up a social services building on private land," Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, said Monday when Senate Democrats released their public works funding plan. "The question becomes, what's next?"
Newman said it may not be fair for the state to construct buildings on the reservation when his constituents must pay for their own new facilities.
"I am in no way trying to be disrespectful, but I am trying to be realistic," Newman said.
The sponsor of the bill, Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, D-Plummer, said that county officials support the state funding because very little land in the area is subject to property taxes, which in other cases provide funding for school and local government buildings.
"This takes quite a bit of a load off Beltrami County," Stumpf said.
Red Lake schools often have sought state funds. Stumpf said the school district faces several issues, including students moving to a Minneapolis Indian community and back to northwestern Minnesota's Red Lake reservation.
Newman suggested building facilities on public land, where more people would have access.
But Sen. David Tomassoni, D-Chisholm, said Red Lake needs the help. "It is about making sure they actually have the ability to have a school building ... when they don't have the capacity to do it on their own."
The social services building would get $17 million in state money while the school would receive $14 million.
Projects in Stumpf's bill fund a variety of projects.
For instance, it would build a chemistry and advanced materials science building at the University of Minnesota Duluth with $27 million, provide $18 million for a Bemidji State University academic learning center, give $20 million to prevent floods, upgrade Capitol area security with $22 million, complete building a southwestern Minnesota water distribution project at $11.5 million and build raises railroad crossings in Moorhead, Red Wing and Coon Rapid at a $65 million cost.
The legislation also would spend money to improve security at state hospitals and prisons and provide money for several sewage and water treatment projects.