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Bonding bill picks up a $250 million passenger

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The House Ways and Means Committee voted Wednesday to approve this year’s bonding bill and send it to the House Floor with one major addition — $250 million in additional transportation funding.

Sponsored by Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City), HF4404 would authorize $825 million in general obligation funds to be used to fund projects around the state, including $153 million for water quality and conservation efforts and $120 million for road and transportation infrastructure.

However, an amendment offered by Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska), who chairs the House Transportation Finance Committee, was adopted adding language also included in HF4160, the omnibus transportation finance bill.

The amendment adds $250 million in trunk highway bonds. That money would be used as follows:

  • $145 million for the Corridors of Commerce program,
  • $75 million for highway-rail grade separation projects identified as priority rail crossings in a state rail study; and
  • $30 million in trunk highway bonding proceeds for a new Transportation Facilities Capital Program that would help renovate or construct MnDOT facilities across the state.

Unlike general obligation bonds, which can be used for a number of purposes, trunk highway bonds are payable from the trunk highway fund and can only be used to build, improve or maintain the state’s trunk highway system.  

Torkelson said he wants this funding included in the bonding bill in addition to the omnibus supplemental budget bill – HF4099/ SF3656* – which now includes the omnibus transportation finance bill, as insurance should that bill fail.

“I do on occasion wear a belt and suspenders, just to be safe, and that is the reasoning behind this,” Torkelson said.

Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL-St. Paul) expressed concern the amendment added “additional weight” to the bonding bill, but it was adopted on a voice vote.

The committee later approved HF4404 on a split-voice vote. Its companion, SF4013, is sponsored by Sen. David Senjem (R-Rochester) and awaits action by the Senate Capital Investment Committee.

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