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Proposal includes money for bridge, convention

By Frederic J. Frommer

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Minnesota would receive $195 million to help replace the fallen Interstate 35W bridge, as well as $50 million in security money for next year’s Republican National Convention, under a year-end budget bill passed by the House of Representatives late Monday.

Money for both projects has been kicking around Capitol Hill for months, but the $500 billion-plus catchall spending bill might represent its best chance for getting through Congress and approved by President Bush.

On Monday, Bush said he was hopeful he could sign the bill, but only after Democrats agree to accept funding for U.S. troops in Iraq.

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The bill is expected to pass Congress this week before lawmakers leave for Christmas.

The money for the bridge would come on top of the $178.5 million the federal government has already given Minnesota for the project. The bridge collapsed on Aug. 1, killing 13 people.

State dollars have covered bridge construction costs so far while the state Transportation Department waits for the federal money to come through. The state agency submits reimbursement forms to the federal government as it pays bridge bills, but Minnesota officials expect federal money to ultimately pay the full bridge replacement tab.

The convention money, meanwhile, would provide $50 million each for security costs for the GOP convention in St. Paul and the Democratic convention in Denver.

The state’s two senators, Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Republican Norm Coleman, issued a joint news release announcing the bridge and security money.

"With reconstruction of the 35W bridge already under way, today’s congressional appropriation reaffirms the federal promise to provide the funding needed for rebuilding," Klobuchar said.

And she said the federal government should help pay for the security of next year’s convention, calling it "fundamentally a national, not local, event."

Coleman said that without federal assistance for the convention, the security requirements would amount to an unfunded mandate.

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He said the bridge funding "will allow for a newer, safer and less congested bridge to be built as soon as possible."

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