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House capital investment bill gets committee OK — though it's not enough for some

Rep. Dean Urdahl, chair of the House Capital Investment Committee, confers with Committee Administrator Gavin Hanson May 4 as the committee begins to take public testimony on its omnibus bill. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Whittling more than $3 billion worth of requests down to an $825 million target has not been easy for the leader of the House Capital Investment Committee.

However, the plan proffered by Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City) was approved by the committee Friday.

As amended, HF4404 heads to the House Ways and Means Committee.

MORE See the spreadsheet

“We have an $825 million target, $25 million of which is for school security,” Urdahl said. “… The goal of this was to be very heavy on infrastructure, bricks and mortar, asset preservation. We own 6,200 buildings and we should take care of them.”

He said 67 percent of the bill is for asset preservation, adding that it is geographically balanced and tries to be bipartisan as to where the projects are located.

“It’s a good bill in many respects,” Urdahl said.

Gov. Mark Dayton is not a fan. Speaking at a Thursday news conference, he termed the proposal “woefully inadequate” and asked, “Where’s the other half?”

Dayton put forth a $1.5 billion plan in January. The Senate has yet to release its proposal.

MORE See a comparison between House, governor offers

Myron Frans, commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget, urged a larger total and said the governor’s plan falls within state debt guidelines.

“To be fiscally responsible we need to act now,” he said.

To echo that point, Administration Commissioner Matt Massman said asset preservation needs for state buildings is now $2.8 billion.

Repairing a building in critical condition, he said, costs 12 times more than maintaining a structure, and money for these expenses is not in agency budgets and must be done through bonding.

Frans and Massman were among the more than 20 testifiers commenting on the bill, most lamenting what is absent.

Larry Pogemiller, director of the Office of Higher Education, said the bill lacks commitment for asset preservation at the state’s public institutions of higher learning

Members of the House Capital Investment Committee listen May 4 as they begin to take public testimony on HF4404, the omnibus capital investment bill. Photo by Paul Battaglia

The bill calls for almost $201.4 million in higher education spending. Included in the $173.8 million in general-obligation dollars is $80 million in asset preservation evenly split between the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State system. The university is asking for $200 million; Minnesota State $130 million.

Three specific university projects would be funded with general-obligation money and nine Minnesota State building projects would be partially user-financed in accordance with state statute.

Rep. Tim Miller (R-Prinsburg) and Rep. John Poston (R-Lake Shore) said the university has various budget reserves that combined exceed $5 billion; however, Pogemiller said that is far less than comparable universities, such as the University of Michigan.

If a project is not in the bill or funding is less than you requested, it’s not because the committee has a bias, Urdahl said. “We only have $800 million to spend.”

“With the constraints given, you did an outstanding job,” said Rep. Jack Considine Jr. (DFL-Mankato).

Sitting next to him was Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL-St. Paul), the committee’s DFL lead.

Noting there is a lot of urgency and needs across the state, she encouraged people to contact legislative leaders and request a bigger bill target in hopes of getting their project included.

Urdahl said there is no guarantee the final number would increase, and it could be tough to get votes from other Republicans if the bill were much larger. At least three-fifths of the House — 81 votes — must support a capital investment bill for it to pass.

“We’ll see where the process takes us,” he said.

 

What’s in the bill?

Traditionally, the second year of a biennium is focused on capital investment; however, a nearly billion-dollar package was enacted last session.

The 2018 proposal includes $153 million for water and conservation projects — including $30 million for wastewater projects, $25 million to improve drinking water and $20 million to match federal grants for qualified water improvement projects.

Road and transportation infrastructure is funded to the tune of $120 million, including $91.2 million “for construction and reconstruction of local roads with statewide or regional significance … or for grants to counties to assist in paying the costs of rural road safety capital improvement projects on county state-aid highways.”

Other proposed spending includes:

  • $35 million for Rural Finance Authority to, in part, help beginning farmers and restructure other farm loans;
  • $30 million for a new visitor’s center at Fort Snelling;
  • $30 million for Department of Natural Resources asset preservation;
  • $25.1 million for regional mental health crisis center grants;
  • $22.5 million for public safety centers in Cottage Grove, Inver Grove Heights and Marshall;
  • $20 million for Department of Corrections asset preservation;
  • $20 million for flood hazard mitigation;
  • $18 million to construct a statewide Second Harvest Heartland charitable food facility in Brooklyn Park;
  • $15 million for the Upper Harbor Terminal Redevelopment in Minneapolis;
  • $10 million for regional parks and trails;
  • $10 million in asset preservation at the Minnesota Zoo;
  • $10 million for Capitol Complex security upgrades;
  • $6.7 million for public housing rehabilitation; and
  • $2 million for a 50-meter pool in New Hope.

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