Higher education, outdoors, light rail top House bonding plan

  • Article by: MARK BRUNSWICK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 3, 2008 - 9:51 PM

Floor votes on the bill and on the Senate's version could come this week; the $1 billion total will likely be pared down in negotiations.

House DFLers weighed in with their version of the state borrowing bill on Monday, proposing nearly $1 billion in spending on a wide range of projects, including the Central Corridor light-rail line in the Twin Cities, expansion of the Duluth entertainment center and a host of undertakings for the University of Minnesota and Minnesota's other state colleges and universities.

The measure, known as the bonding bill, passed the House Capital Investment Committee Monday evening and is headed for the House floor, probably by Thursday. The Senate may vote on its version, which dedicates about the same amount of money but distributes it somewhat differently, as early as today. Action in the two houses would set the stage for reconciling the differences and presenting a bill to Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

The legislation is the result of evaluating and paring down more than $2 billion in requests from entities across the state. It is likely to be reduced even more when negotiations begin between legislative leaders and Pawlenty.

"Obviously, this is a much smaller bill and may be much smaller at the end of the process," said Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, chairwoman of the House Capital Investment Committee.

Construction infusion

Pawlenty has his own bonding proposal, the state's main mechanism for building projects and improvements, which is often regarded as a way to infuse financial energy into state construction.

"It is a recession and we believe this bill can put a lot of people to work," Hausman said.

While the total dollar amounts for the three proposals are similar, Pawlenty placed a much higher stake in transportation projects, including bridge restoration in the wake of the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge. House and Senate DFL majorities included the bulk of their transportation funding in a separate $6.6 billion transportation bill, which passed last week over the governor's veto.

As is usually the case, the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MnSCU) receive a significant portion of the House bonding proposal, together accounting for more than $417 million in projects. The $136 million proposed for the U includes $48.3 million for a science teaching and student services building and $40 million for asset preservation.

The House bill also proposes more than $28 million for regional park grants and state trail rehabilitation, as well $15.5 million to acquire land for a proposed Lake Vermilion State Park, a different method of financing for the project than Pawlenty has proposed.

Like Pawlenty and the Senate, the House version includes $70 million of the $140 million requested for the Central Corridor light-rail transit line that would link Minneapolis and St. Paul. That amount is regarded largely as a placeholder for negotiation. It also proposes $4 million for other corridor and transitway projects.

Several regional projects get the nod in the House bill, including:

• the Duluth DECC at $38 million;

• a Bemidji regional event center at $20 million;

• the St. Cloud Convention Center at $2 million;

• the polar bear and gorilla exhibit renovation at the Como Zoo in St. Paul, at $11 million;

The House version also sets aside $25 million for closed landfill clean-up.

Mark Brunswick • 651-222-1636

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