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No bonding bill in sight as Minnesota lawmakers close on midnight deadline

The current framework for the bonding proposal would put $1 billion toward state agency projects with an emphasis on preserving existing assets. Local projects would get $400 million. But with just hours before a deadline to pass any bills, no proposal had fully materialized.

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Minnesota Capitol. Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — While Minnesota lawmakers had agreed on $1.4 billion in borrowing in this year's public projects bill, the prospects for a proposal making it to the governor’s desk appeared low Sunday evening as the midnight legislative deadline drew nearer.

Senate Capital Investment Committee Chair Sen. Tom Bakk, I-Cook, told reporters Saturday that the current framework for the bonding proposal would put $1 billion toward state agency projects with an emphasis on preserving existing assets. Local projects would get $400 million. Lawmakers are also aiming to allocate $150 million for projects that don’t qualify for bonding.

In 2022, state agencies, higher education institutions and local governments requested about $5.5 billion in funding for infrastructure projects. Gov. Tim Walz ahead of the session released a $2.7 billion capital investment plan for Minnesota, $2.25 billion of which would be in bonds. Of that, $1 billion would go toward repairing and preserving existing infrastructure and assets.

More than 500 project bills have been forwarded to the Senate Capital Investment Committee, Bakk said, but the legislature will only be fulfilling some of the local requests.

“We’re not going to accommodate everything that local governments want for local infrastructure, but at $400 million we’re going to get a decent chunk of it,” Bakk said.

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With just hours remaining on Sunday for the Senate and House to pass bills in the regular session, lawmakers had not publicly released any bonding proposal. While drought relief and an environment bill made it through the Senate on Sunday and are headed to Gov. Walz’s desk, lawmakers struggled to reach an agreement on taxes, public safety and K-12 education.

As the deadline closed, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, which represents more than 100 cities outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area, said it hoped lawmakers would be able to reach some type of agreement.

"Given all of the critical infrastructure needs across the state, it would be an absolute failure if the Legislature were not to pass a bonding bill," the coalition said. "We remain hopeful that the Legislature will come through and fund water, wastewater, transportation and other needed infrastructure projects across the state."

Some lawmakers are calling for Gov. Walz to call a special session so the Legislature can pass spending bills. Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, has said he has no interest in doing so, and Walz has said he does not want to call lawmakers back to the Capitol. If the governor does not call a special session, lawmakers would have to wait until the 2023 regular session to pass any bills.

Even years in the Minnesota Legislature are traditionally when lawmakers pass major public projects borrowing bills. The last time the Legislature passed a bonding bill was in October 2020, when it approved a record $1.9 billion.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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