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House passes two capital investment bills

By Mike Cook
House Photography file photo

A pair of bonding packages that would spend more than $1 billion was passed in the early hours of Friday by the House.

The package put forth by Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL-St. Paul) and Sen. LeRoy Stumpf (DFL-Plummer) is comprised of two bills. HF2490, as amended, would have a general-obligation bonding impact of $846 million. The amended HF1068 would spend $198.7 million from the state’s budget surplus for additional infrastructure projects. (View the spreadsheet)

HF2490 was passed 92-40, and HF1068 passed 82-50. Both bills now go to the Senate where they are expected to be addressed later Friday.

“There are a lot of good things, many of them a backlog from previous vetoes, at least 20,” Hausman said. “The bill is filled with lines that leverage other money: federal money, local money, private money.”

Rep. John Ward (DFL-Baxter) called HF2490 “a good, balanced statewide bill.”

Rep. Alice Hausman

Almost $4 billion in bonding requests were submitted, but an agreement made last year by caucus leaders to only bond for $1 billion in the biennium resulted in this year’s final total. A $156.1 million law was passed last session. To fund more projects, a supplemental cash bill was proffered.

While the cash bill needed just a simple majority for passage, construction borrowing bills, like HF2490, need a 60 percent threshold to pass, meaning eight Republican votes were needed if all DFLers voted for the bill. The resolution of a key issue in one corner of the state likely helped those green votes come forward.  

Included in the cash bill is just $22 million of the approximately $69 million needed to complete the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System that would help provide freshwater to parts of southwestern Minnesota where water supplies have dwindled.

“We are dry, but we have a plan,” said Rep. Joe Schomacker (R-Luverne). “There is such a dire need.”

House floor session - part 4
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The remainder is included in the tax agreement (HF3167), with a new sales tax authority for Nobles and Rock counties and the city of Luverne. A current special sales tax in Worthington would be extended. Debt service on the bonds issued for the project would be funded two-thirds by the state and one-third by local communities.

“Bonding bills, by their nature, have many good things in them and some things that we may find objectionable,” said Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City) in support of HF2490. “In my mind the good, particularly the restoration of the Capitol … far outweighs anything that I might object to.”

Included in the general-obligation bonding bill is:

  • $126.3 million to finish the State Capitol restoration;
  • $120.7 million for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities projects, including $42.5 million in systemwide asset preservation, $35.86 million for a science education center at Metropolitan State University and $25.82 million for a clinical sciences facility at Minnesota State University, Mankato;
  • $119.37 million for the University of Minnesota, including $56.7 million for a Tate Laboratory renovation on the Minneapolis campus and $42.5 million in systemwide asset preservation;
  • $56.32 million toward remodeling the state security hospital in St. Peter;
  • $21.5 million for Nicollet Mall redesign in downtown Minneapolis;
  • $18.33 million for the wastewater infrastructure fund;
  • $17.67 million for trail acquisition and development;
  • $15 million for a capital improvement program to advance transit in the Twin Cities metropolitan area;
  • $14 million for the development of Lake Vermillion State Park;
  • $10.65 million to construct a new boys’ dormitory at the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf;
  • $8.5 million for renovations at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, including improving irrigation and drainage;
  • $7.4 million to construct the first phase of a three-phase improvement project for the Minnesota Sex Offender Program in St. Peter;
  • $5.38 million for a fence at the state women’s prison in Shakopee; and
  • $5.35 million for renovation at the Chatfield Center for the Arts.

Cash bill components include:

  • $61 million for convention center projects in Mankato, Rochester and St. Cloud;
  • $30 million in local road improvement fund grants (this also gets $24.36 million in the general-obligation bill);
  • $20.74 million for the local bridge replacement program (this also gets $12.26 million in the general-obligation bill);
  • $7.5 million for flood hazard mitigation;
  • $6.95 million to renovate the NorShor Theatre in Duluth; and
  • $225,000 to construct the All Veterans Memorial in Edina.

Combined, the bills would provide $100 million for housing: permission for the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency to issue $80 million in appropriation bonds and $20 million for public housing rehabilitation from the general-obligation bill.

“It is a huge part of the bill and unprecedented,” Hausman said.

Not included in the House-approved bills is $51.5 million for a new James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus, a project Hausman has requested for a number of years. However, the project is to be green-lighted with the university issuing bonds for the project and the state helping to pay off the debt.

Also missing is a provision to repeal a state building code requirement for all new larger homes to have fire sprinklers. Gov. Mark Dayton threatened to veto the entire bill had the repeal been included.

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