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House bonding chief offers $975M in projects, calls it 'inadequate'

Posted by: Patrick Condon under Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, Democrats, Republicans, State budgets Updated: April 1, 2014 - 10:58 AM

(Updated)

The Democratic chairwoman of the House's bonding committee is offering $975 million in building and infrastructure projects that she labeled as "inadequate" to the state's needs, but also predicted it would be difficult to get enough votes from Republicans to make the list law. 

Rep. Alice Hausman of St. Paul unveiled her proposal Tuesday. Passing a bonding bill is one of the chief priorities of lawmakers this year, but it's also one of the toughest bills to pass because it requires a legislative supermajority in order to issue the bonds that pay for most of the projects. That puts Republicans in the legislative minority in a pivotal position: at least eight of them must vote for the bonding bill if it's to pass the House. 

"That's going to be an uphill battle," Hausman said. "It has a long way to go and not much time."

Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed $986 million in bonding projects, with many of the same priorities as House Democrats. Senate Democrats have not yet unveiled their project list or preferred price tag. 

Hausman's bill contains $850 million in bonding and an additional $125 million in cash from the state's budget surplus to pay for dozens of construction projects around the state. The largest chunks are reserved for the University of Minnesota system, which gets $175 million, and $139 million for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. 

Two projects on the Minneapolis campus account for more than $100 million of the University of Minnesota money: a renovation and planetarium project at the James Ford Bell Museum of Natural HIstory, and a renovation of Tate Laboratory of Physics. 

Other beneficiaries of large chunks of money include the Department of Natural Resources, which gets $62 million for a handful of park and trail projects, flood mitigation and land acquisition; $50 million for the Department of Transportation to replace bridges and improve roads; $41 million to remodel the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter; and $147 million in grants to local governments for economic development projects. 

That last piece includes $4.5 million to the city of Minneapolis for the planned redesign of Nicollet Mall. Rochester would get $30 million for an expansion of Mayo Civic Center, Mankato would get $14.5 million to expand its arena, and St. Cloud would get $11.5 million to expand River's Edge Convention Center. St. Paul would get $14 million to expand and renovate the Children's Museum. 

In the cash portion of the bill, Hausman included $20 million for the ongoing Capitol restoration project. That's short of what project planners say is needed to keep the project going in a timely fashion. 

Rep. Matt Dean, the ranking Republican on Hausman's committee, said he believed many of his GOP colleagues do want to vote for a bonding bill. But he withheld judgement on Hausman's mix of projects.

The list of $850 million in House bonding projects can be found here. The list of $125 million in cash projects can be found here

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