The Minnesota House has signed off on a $496 million bonding bill that would fund construction and preservation projects across the state.
The capital projects bill will fund bricks-and-mortar projects across the state, from flood mitigation to repairs to the crumbling state Capital. It passed the House Monday by a vote of 99-32.
“There are days when I’ve felt like a ping-pong ball. Back and forth, back and forth,” said House Capital Investment Chairman Larry Howes, R-Walker, whose bill has been batted around for the entire session.
The final version of the bill includes millions for flood mitigation, bridge and road construction, and repairs to crumbling infrastructure across the state – including $44 million to begin repairs on the aging state Capitol. The bill now heads to the Senate as the House prepares to move on to the next item on its to-do list – the stadium bill.
The half-billion dollar capital-projects bill expanded over the weekend from an earlier total of $496 million. The vote on the bill was delayed last Friday, amid concerns about lopsided funding between the state’s two public higher education systems.
On Friday, the University of Minnesota system was slated to receive $54 million, mostly for maintenance and repair projects around its campuses, while the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system would have gotten $144 million. Over the weekend, negotiators gave the U of M system an extra $10 million and reduced MnSCU funding by $12 million, narrowing the funding gap to $64 million and $132 million respectively.
Other changes over the weekend included restoring $19 million to build an education center at Camp Ripley. The state agency that runs the Minnesota Zoo lost $1 million over the weekend, leaving it with a proposed $4 million for asset preservation – like fixing the leaky dolphin tank. Minneapolis’s Phillips pool stayed in the bill, with $1.75 million earmarked to save the last inner-city pool in the city.
As before, the bill tilts heavily toward bricks-and-mortar projects like flood mitigation and bridge repairs, and leaves out most local projects like convention centers, the Southwest rail corridor, a face-lift for Nicollet Mall or a new ballpark for the St. Paul Saints.
“Let’s not tell Minnesotans that we’re preparing for the future, because we are not,” said Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, lamenting some of the items that were left out of the bonding bill – including funds to fight invasive Asian carp in the rivers and funds for the Southwest light rail corridor.
The bill does contain a $55 million pot of money that can be used for capital project grants – grants that communities might be able to apply for to build, say, a minor league ballpark or a civic center. Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, offered an amendment that would have locked up that $55 million for road construction projects instead, but was voted down.