NLX alliance considers 2018 funding alternatives

February 2, 2018

Governor Mark Dayton released his bonding bill Tuesday, January 16, and though it’s a $1.5 billion proposed bonding bill, it’s difficult to measure its potential impact on the Northern Lights Express (NLX) rail line.


John Ongaro, government relations director for St. Louis County, discussed funding updates and options during January’s NLX meeting.


Dayton’s proposed bill, Ongaro reported, focuses on maintaining state schools and state agency projects. “Only one city (project) was included in the bonding proposal,” Ongaro said.


By overemphasizing state projects, he continued, a compromise can be reached when the bill is brought forward during the 2018 session, which convenes February 20. State legislators will come to the table with their own local projects in mind, and a better balance can ideally be negotiated between state and local projects.


The Rail Alliance Board also has its eyes on President Donald Trump’s upcoming State of the Union speech, which will hopefully reveal more details about his infrastructure plan. This infrastructure proposal of a reported $1.7 billion would specify federal support and funding options the rail alliance could pursue.


As the alliance awaits details to be rolled out as January comes to a close, the alliance reconsidered their 2018 budget as the city of Minneapolis is no longer offering a contribution to the alliance.


In November, the board approved an $80,000 budget, which was a decrease of $15,000 from their 2016 budget. The amended budget for 2018 puts the alliance at $74,500, which the alliance bare-bones needs to operate, but, at this time, the alliance does not know where $9,600 of that money is coming from. 


Contributions currently come from St Louis and Lake Counties, cities of Duluth, Cambridge and Superior, as well as from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. The city of Sandstone also made a contribution of $1,500 to the alliance, which is in the running to play host of the maintenance facility.


The board moved to review its contributions and budget in six months time. Until then, the board will continue to seek out alternative and supportive funding options.

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