(This post has been updated)
Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday called for $842 million in public-oriented construction projects, saying the debt the state would incur to bankroll them is worth the economic jolt it would provide.
"My proposal would put thousands of Minnesotans to work throughout our state," Dayton said at a Capitol news conference, laying out a hefty wishlist that includes money for college campuses, local economic development projects, rail and pipeline safety initiatives, workforce housing, the State Capitol renovation, to replace the visitor center at Fort Snelling and dozens of other projects.
A complete list of Dayton's proposed projects can be found at this link. A map of the projects and regional breakdowns can be found here. Citing an academic analysis, Dayton's administration said enacting his entire proposal would create 23,900 jobs in Minnesota.
Legislative tradition, and reluctance among House Republicans, means a tough road ahead for Dayton's construction plan.
Lawmakers frequently note that large bonding bills have more often been passed in even-numbered years of the two-yaer legislative cycle, after lawmakers dispense with the state budget in odd-numbered years.
But Dayton noted that has been far from a hard and fast rule. He said research by his staff showed that lawmakers have approved some level of bonding in 31 of the last 32 years, and said the state's good economic circumstances justify an ambitious approach to construction.
"I think this is a perfect opportunity. Interest rates are low, we have a budget surplus, and there are all these projects backed up," Dayton said. He said the $842 million project list was whittled down from $1.9 billion in requests.
But that's not a hard and fast rule. Dayton in particular has been an advocate of frequent and sizable bonding bills, arguing that the civic centers, campus buildings, public works upgrades and other physical improvements they bring to communities help foster local economic activity.
As he has previously House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, on Tuesday said the House was not likely to take up a bonding bill this year. Having just seized the House majority last fall, Daudt said, Republicans have not had sufficient time to fully vet nearly $2 billion in bonding requests.
House Republicans also want to leverage the state's debt capacity to cover some costs of their transportation plan, their current strategy is to push through that portion of funding next year.
Since bonding bills originate in the House, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, has said the Senate is likely to follow the House's lead. Still, Bakk said prior to the legislative break that Senate DFLers might still assemble a bonding proposal.
Bonding bills are unusual in that issuing debt on the state's behalf requires votes of three-fifths of the members of the House and Senate. That makes bipartisan cooperation necessary.
Gov. Mark Dayton will announced his $850-million bonding bill Tuesday, which is expected to fund construction projects and create jobs across the state.
Characterized as a jobs bill, the legislation comes even as leaders in the Republican-led House have said they don't have plans on proposing a bonding bill this year. Bonding bills have to originate in the House, and as a result, the Senate may follow suit. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said late last month that he instructed Senate leaders to come up with options in case a bonding bill is produced.
Dayton expects to announce the legislation at 10 a.m. Tuesday, along with Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans.
Later Tuesday morning, Dayton and Frans will host a conference call with reporters from around the state, a nod that many of the planned projects the bill would fund are in rural Minnesota.
Gov. Mark Dayton, who had been considering a state government travel ban to Indiana following the uproar over that state's controversial religious freedom law, announced there won't be a travel ban after the Hoosier state clarified the meaning of the law to make clear it does not allow discrimination.
Opponents of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act said it would allow businesses to deny service to customers on the basis of religious belief, refusing, for instance, to provide flowers for or photography of a gay wedding.
Indiana business groups and the Republican mayor of Indianapolis denounced the measure, and the Indianapolis Star ran a front page editorial with the headline: "Fix This Now."
The Indiana Legislature passed a new measure Thursday clarifying the meaning of the law. Gov. Mike Pence asked for the change so the new law "would not create a license to discriminate or to deny services to any individual as its critics have alleged," he said in a statement.
While snubbing Indiana for "not meet(ing) the high standards of equal protection we have enacted in Minnesota," Dayton said a travel ban is no longer necessary.
Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he might ban or put limits on state travel to Indiana in response to that state's new law governing religious freedom, which has come under heavy criticism from gay rights activists and supporters.
"I abhor the action taken by the Legislature and governor of Indiana," Dayton told the Star Tribune. "We are considering now what we can legally and properly do without overreaching, and setting up a situation where we're telling state employees they can't go to Indiana for some resolution of a public issue."
Dayton said he hoped to announce some type of response within 48 hours.
On Wednesday, the Minneapolis Fire Department canceled travel plans to an Indiana conference at the urging of Mayor Betsy Hodges, who is moving to prevent any city-funded travel to Indiana.
Other Democratic mayors and governors around the country have taken similar steps, including the governors of Connecticut, New York and Washington state.
The law, which Indiana's Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed in private last week, purports to protect individuals and business owners in the free exercise of religion. However, its critics believe it could provide a legal basis for discrimination against gay people. In one case, an Indiana pizzeria has asserted it would cite the law's protections so as to not have to cater gay weddings.
The law prompted a nationwide outcry, and has even come under criticism by some Indiana Republicans, including the mayor of Indianapolis. Pence has since said he wants the law changed to address some of those concerns, but leading Indiana Republicans have rejected calls to repeal it outright.
"I join with those who have denounced the law. I hope it's rescinded as soon as possible," Dayton said. "The question is what is the proper response?"
Problems with water damage, additional need for security improvements and other unforeseen costs have added $30 million to the cost of a major State Capitol building renovation, Gov. Mark Dayton and lawmakers learned Friday.
If the additional money is approved by lawmakers, it would push the total price of the multi-year renovation to about $300 million. Dayton and lawmakers discussed the additional costs Friday in a meeting of the panel overseeing the project, which also saw leading lawmakers second-guessing some of the decisions by the project's architects.
The biggest chunk of the additional $30 million in costs, about $17 million, is tied to addressing what the architects described as "water intrusion and settlement." Last spring, demolition work tied to the renovation uncovered evidence of widespread water leaks into the Capitol basement, particularly underneath two outdoor staircases on the east and west sides of the building.
Dayton and lawmakers expressed some irritation about the idea of having to pony up more money for the project, but there seemed to be bipartisan agreement it was probably necessary.
"I don't know what the alternative would be," Dayton said. Said Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester: "This seems in order -- we're mobilized, we're in there already, let's do it right."
The additional spending has to be approved through the legislative process. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said some of that might be able to come from construction bonds, but also suggested a portion may have to come directly from the general fund.
About $20 million from a contingency fund for the project is mostly spent, which Dayton said was also unfortunate but not too surprising.
"It's a huge building and it's 109 years old," Dayton said.
After discussing the cost overruns, Dayton and lawmakers haggled with the project's planners about public access to the building.
Severall senators were upset with tentative plans to park school buses and place handicapped parking spots directly at the building's front, facing south toward downtown St. Paul.
Bakk and Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, expressed a strong preference that school buses could instead be parked along the building's east side, on Cedar Avenue. Bakk noted that a new Senate parking ramp under construction just north of the Capitol would have a lot of handicapped spots.
Dayton, as he has previously, weighed in on the building's art. A recent assessment by Ted Lentz, an architect and member of the Capitol Area Architectual and Planning Board, valued the building's art assets as a stunning $1 billion, but Dayton has been critical of certain aspects of the art, suggesting it over-emphasizes Civil War battles and portraits of former governors.
A subcommittee of the Capitol Preservation panel has been working on envisioning how to highlight existing art and possibly incorporate new art, too. The panel on Friday backed a request for $3 million in additional dollars to restore existing art that in some cases is damaged.
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