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Editorial: Dayton gives water project a key assist

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton presented a $986 million bonding proposal on Wednesday, and many Republicans promptly called it too expensive. There is little doubt, though, that our three southwest Minnesota lawmakers — District 22 Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne, District 22A Rep. Joe Schomacker, R-Luverne, and District 22B Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake — are all quite OK with at least $20 million of the governor’s plan.

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By including the Lewis & Clark Rural Water Project in the bonding bill, Dayton demonstrated his willingness to address a critical Greater Minnesota need. We’ve noted it many times: without completion of the project, communities in our region will face great difficulty in further economic development. And Dayton is “the governor of all Minnesota,” as he noted Wednesday, and not just its metro areas, as potential Republican gubernatorial challenger Marty Siefert suggested a day before.

What’s more, Dayton put Lewis & Clark in the bonding bill despite its being a federal funding obligation. Sadly, that obligation has been continued to be ignored, despite all entities participating in the project already providing their fair share over a previous arrangement with Washington. By stepping in, Dayton is helping the feds fulfill their previous empty promises — probably a good thing, since the alternative may well waiting to receive a gift that never arrives.

We’re pleased with Dayton proposing $20 million to Lewis & Clark, but that’s actually just a third of the money currently needed to complete project work in Minnesota. Dayton said he’d come back in 2015 and offer to fund that remaining cost — if he wins re-election, that is. The new influx of money is great; we’re just a bit disappointed that getting water long promised us could depend on an intrastate political outcome.