Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Prospects for a state bonding bill unclear

ST. PAUL — State lawmakers left town Thursday night for a week-long Easter/Passover break without voting on bonding bills, raising questions of whether these public works packages will happen this session.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, is among lawmakers hoping such a bill won’t pass. While the Legislature traditionally passes bonding bills in the second year of the biennium, Drazkowski said there is no need this time around. He points to lawmakers’ approval of nearly $500 million for construction projects last summer as part of a final budget deal with DFL Gov. Mark Dayton to end the government shutdown. He says that should be enough.

"This isn’t money that just falls down (like) manna from heaven. This is money that is borrowed," he said.

Others argue that if the Legislature does not pass a bonding bill, it will have failed in one of its key responsibilities — taking care of the state’s infrastructure.

"The bonding bill is an investment in the state," said Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin. "It’s taking care of the leaky roofs and the cracked roads."


Super-majority required

Unlike other bills, these require a super-majority, or 60 percent, to pass, meaning it needs broader support from Republicans and Democrats. But there are major differences between the House and Senate versions. House Republicans put forward a $280 million public works package. They are also moving a separate bill to borrow $220 million to renovate the state Capitol.

Compare that to the Senate version, which borrows $496 million and includes only $25 million to renovate the Capitol. That is still far less than the $775 million bonding proposal put forward by Dayton.

Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, is in the position of trying to get lawmakers to back the bonding bill. As chairman of the Senate Capital Investment Committee, he helped craft the proposal. In addition to funding for roads, bridges and college repairs, several regional projects are included, such as Rochester's Mayo Civic Center expansion, Chatfield's Center for the Arts and Austin's Hormel Institute.

Senjem said he isn't worried about getting a bonding bill passed — yet. He said Senate Republicans are committed to it.

"We’re going to work toward passing a bonding bill, and we’re certainly going to work with the House to do that. We’ll see if we can get there," he said.

House votes

It’s unclear whether there are enough votes in the House to pass the bonding bill. Democrats say the proposal is far too small. Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, said she has no plans to vote for the $280 million package because it doesn't include projects that will help Rochester and other regional centers in the state. If House Republicans are willing to bring forward a larger bonding proposal, she said, they can win her vote.


"The ball is in their court," she said. "They can do it or they cannot do it. I am prepared to vote for a decent-sized bill."

Preston Republican Rep. Greg Davids also wants to see a larger bonding bill. He disagrees with members of his caucus who argue against a bonding bill and wants to see one closer to the $496 million Senate version. What does he say to those who argue that the bill is loaded with pork? Davids says projects like the renovation of the Chatfield Center for the Arts are about economic development.

"This session is supposed to be about jobs, and if you look at the economic impact of the Chatfield Center for the Arts, that facility is used regionally, and it creates jobs," he said.

Some lawmakers are still trying to decide how they’ll vote.

"I haven’t decided if I am going to vote for that (House) plan or not," said Rep. Duane Quam, R-Byron. "My general feeling is that a larger percent of these bills need to be roads, bridges and flood (mitigation)."

What To Read Next
Get Local