A half-billion dollar collection of road projects and construction funds cleared the Legislature Monday and is on its way to Gov. Mark Dayton.
The Minnesota House gave final approval to this year's $566 million bonding bill, which had passed the Senate on Monday night. The bill is intended to kick-start construction projects across the state, with millions heading to college campuses, road projects, bridge repairs and back to the Capitol itself for $44 million to make over the aging landmark.
But for many communities, the bonding bill was more notable for the projects it didn't fund.
Minneapolis and St. Paul lost the biggest items on their wish lists -- a multimillion-dollar face-lift for Nicollet Mall and a new ballpark for the St. Paul Saints. The University of Minnesota got only a fifth of the funds it needs to build a $54 million power plant. Rochester, St. Cloud and Mankato didn't get the funds they needed for their civic centers.
The GOP-led Legislature did offer those communities a $47.5 million consolation prize -- a pot of money that DFL Gov. Mark Dayton will get to distribute via the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to capital improvement projects statewide. But that amount of money won't spread very far. In fact, it's less than Minneapolis and St. Paul would need to complete both their projects.
"I am very disappointed in this bill," said Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, who fought for funding for a $35 million expansion of Rochester's Mayo Civic Center.
"This is the fund that is supposed to take care of economic development around the state, and yet it's small and getting smaller."
But it wasn't small enough for Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, who tried unsuccessfully to get the economic development funds shifted to road construction. Bonding bills, Drazkowski argued, should not pay for civic centers or park trails. They should focus exclusively on "concrete and rebar" projects such as roads and bridges.
"It's too bad for Minnesota that this bill is about to pass," said Drazkowski, who called bonding "the ugliest process here at the Capitol."
The 2012 bonding bill includes $64 million for projects in the University of Minnesota system, $132 million for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, $78 million for economic development, $30 million for flood control projects, $30 million for bridge repair and replacement, $35 million for affordable housing, $10 million for local road projects, and $4 million for the state agency that runs the Minnesota Zoo.
The Senate also restored two projects that had been dropped from the House bill -- a $500,000 floodwall for South St. Paul and $2 million for the Harriet Tubman domestic violence shelter in Maplewood.
Jennifer Brooks • 651-925-5049