A House plan to repair the crumbling Minnesota Capitol with one sweeping $221 million bonding bill failed to pass Thursday.
During drawn-out debate, members agreed that the Capitol is in desperate need of repair, but could not agree whether those repairs should be paid in one lump sum, or piecemeal, so there would be money left over this year for building projects elsewhere in the state.
In the end, the Capitol repair bill earned 80 votes -- one short of the majority needed to pass a bonding bill.
The vote casts doubt on the Legislature’s ability to pass a borrowing bill in a legislative session that is supposed to end next week.
“I think we’ll take a deep breath and think about it,” said Capital Investment Chair Larry Howes, R-Walker, when asked whether he would be bringing the other half of the bonding bill to the floor. “How do I get the votes?”
The other half of the House’s borrowing bill this year is a $280 million package of infrastructure and capital improvement projects that contain few projects in Democratic districts. Minority Leader Paul Thissen countered with a $775 million alternative bonding package.
If the bonding bill doesn’t spread the projects evenly across the state, Thissen said, his caucus will have little incentive to vote in favor of any bonding bill.
“We need a larger bill. Not just to accommodate DFL projects as opposed to Republican projects, but to do the right thing for the state of Minnesota,” said Thissen, who called on the House and Senate to bring leaders from both parties together to try to hammer out a mutually acceptable compromise.
If the Legislature doesn't pass a bonding bill, major projects in every corner of the state will be left in limbo: roads won't be repaired, universities won't be able to build new classrooms,communities won't be able to build their convention centers. And the state Capitol will go another year with chunks of masonry falling off its roof.
"Our beloved Capitol faces a crisis today," said Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City. "If the Capitol were a medical patient, the exterior is on life support, the mechanical is in critical condition, the plumbing in critical condition, the electrical condition is serious condition."