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Bonding bill met with little joy

Published (3/23/2012)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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A $280 million bonding bill was met with a lukewarm response during its debut in the House Capital Investment Committee.

“It’s on a long journey to the governor’s desk, and I assume it will change many times,” said Rep. Larry Howes (R-Walker), the committee chairman and sponsor of HF2622.

Even the roll-call vote to move the bill to the House Ways and Means Committee March 21 was ambiguous. Both the yes and no votes crossed party lines; some members passed, and others explained they would approve the bill only in hopes that it gets improved as it moves along.

The bill would support few new construction projects, but would provide maintenance and repair funding for state assets, including:

• $46 million to the Department of Employment and Economic Development, with $15 million targeted for economic development grant programs;

• $44 million to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system;

• $39 million to the University of Minnesota;

• $38 million to the Department of Transportation for road, rail and bridge improvements;

• $21 million to the Department of Natural Resources for dam, road and bridge construction as well as some park development; and

• $14 million to the Department of Corrections for asset preservation.

Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL-St. Paul) was unsuccessful in her attempt to amend the bill to total $879 million, $119 million more than the total proffered by Gov. Mark Dayton. Not only would it have funded the top four priorities of the various state departments, including $198.9 million to DEED and $102 million to MnDOT, it would take advantage of federal matching dollars for some projects.

“People are still hungry for jobs — architects, engineers and construction workers. The taxpayer’s dollars go further today because interest rates are low,” she said.

But Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) pointed to the state’s increasing debt service payments.

“This isn’t money that just falls like manna from heaven. We are projected to go over

$1 billion in debt service. … This breaks the budget resolution.”

Rep. Morrie Lanning (R-Moorhead) said the bill needs work. “But we need to get the process started and work with the Senate, and get the necessary votes (to pass).”

The companion, SF2169, sponsored by Sen. John Carlson (R-Bemidji), awaits action by the Senate Capital Investment Committee.

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