Minnesota House releases details of $800M bonding bill

With five days left in the legislative session, the GOP House majority focused on the project list of a proposed $800 million bonding bill. The borrowing plan, often called the jobs bill, pays for construction and infrastructure projects around the state paid for with general obligation bonds.

The House bonding bill funds several important projects in the Twin Cities metro that were listed as high priority requests.  Among them:

• Hwy 12 safety improvements - $15 million
• Water damage repairs to the Minnesota Science Museum - $13 million
• Transit station at 35W and Lake Street - $25 million
• Railroad grade separation in Coon Rapids - $12 million

The plan also funds $2.2 million for the expansion of the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office, but it was only a fraction of the $25.9 million request.

The requests for several projects in the Rochester area, Minnesota’s third largest city, were left off the list.

“I’m feeling a little grouchy,” said DFL Rochester Representative Tina Liebling.  “This is one bill where people come together to serve the entire state and it fails miserably.”

The bill also includes no funding for housing projects.  DFL Representative Alice Hausman championed housing issues when she was the chairman of the Capital Investment Committee when the DFL controlled the House.

“I think the disappointments in the bill are huge,” said Hausman.

But current Capital Investment Chair, Rep. Paul Torkelson, said this year’s requests totaled $5.2 billion.  “Many of these projects are worthy and important, but we just can’t afford to fund everything,” Torkelson said.

The bill passed both the Capital Investment Committee and the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday clearing the path for a floor vote on Thursday.  The bill needs a super majority of 81 votes to pass in the House.  Torkelson said in addition to needing all republicans to vote for the bill, he needs at least eight democrats.  He’ll perhaps need more as several republicans have voted against bonding bills in the past out of principle.

But Torkelson also warned colleagues that they need to approve of future construction projects with an eye toward maintenance costs down the road. 

“We need to do a much better job,” said Torkelson.  “And not expect that the bonding bill is going to ride in like a white horse and save us all.”