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Preparations for next year’s bonding bill begin now

A question that GMPT members often ask us is whether bonding is an option for funding their park or trail project. The answer is that it depends on a variety of factors, such as the nature of the project, its cost, and your legislators’ political strength and willingness to advocate for your project. For some projects, bonding may be an option worth pursuing, but other paths, such as Legacy or DNR grants, should also be pursued.

State parks and trails are far more likely than a regional project to receive bonding funds, and a regional park or trail is much more likely to receive bonding funds than a local project. Demand for bonding dollars far outstrips the available funds, and legislators typically argue that bonding funds should be reserved for projects that have statewide or, at minimum, regional significance. There are exceptions to this rule, but they are rare.

The process for bonding selection is much more political than the grant process. To pass a bonding bill, three-fifths of the members of both the House and Senate must vote for the bill. To reach that vote total, the bonding committee in both House and Senate will look to assemble a bill that includes projects from enough legislative districts to ensure sufficient votes for the project. One of the most important factors for getting your park or trail project in a bonding bill is the strong support of your legislators. To achieve success, your legislators need to make your project a priority to get into the bill and promise to vote for the bill if your project is included. To move a project forward, you will also need the support of your city council or county commissioners. Your legislators will most likely promote the projects that are backed strongly by your local elected officials.

If you can garner the support of your local government officials and legislators, the first step will to be to submit a capital budget request to Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) by June 14, 2019. MMB recently released its capital budget instructions, outlining the process by which local governments and state agencies submit capital budget requests to be considered for inclusion in the Governor’s next bonding proposal. This is the first step in the agency’s capital budget process, which will conclude with submission of the Governor’s 2020 bonding proposal to the Legislature next January. Submitting your project through this process may also help secure your project a stop on the House and Senate’s traditional bonding tour, which typically takes place in the summer and fall.

You can find all of the relevant documents related to submitting a bonding proposal HERE.