A $800 million bonding bill, loaded with infrastructure projects for every corner of the state, went down in flames in the Minnesota House on Friday.
The vote means there will be no funds to repair the crumbling state Capitol, or to expand three regional civic centers or fund $45 million worth of transit projects for the Metropolitan Council, or dozens of other projects around the state.
"One word: tragic," said House Capital Investment Committee Chairwoman Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, who worked for months to try to assemble a bill that would get the eight Republican votes she needed. Bonding bills require a super-majority of 81 votes to pass.
Only three Republicans -- Reps. Mark Uglem of Champlin, Chris Swedzinski of Ghent, and Tama Theis of St. Cloud -- joined the majority in the final 76-56 vote. Some Republicans held up newspapers in a studied show of indifference as they voted no.
Republican leaders in both the House and Senate had signaled that the budget and tax bills were their priority, and that they would not support a bonding bill, even one filled with funds and projects many districts were anxious to receive. Bonding bills leverage the state's borrowing ability to help communities pay for projects they might not be able to afford themselves. This one would have funded everything from road, bridge and sewer projects, to parks and museums, and almost $19 million to fund improvements at the Minnesota Veterans Home in Minneapolis.
"You have to eat your supper before you have your dessert, and the bonding bill was always the dessert," said House Minority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood. "Our job here is to get our budgets done, and here we are with our backs against the wall and we don't have our budget done."
Hausman, who said she had commitments from at least eight Republicans who promised to vote for the bill, said there was no time to try to push a pared-down bonding bill before the session ends on Monday.
"What would be the point of taking it up tomorrow?" she said. "We have been trying for months to solidify the votes. So overnight, nothing's going to change. It's inconceivable to me how people could make this kind of judgement."
Even if the GOP pledged to support such a bill, Hausman said, "why would we ever trust that they were telling the truth?"