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Democrats to put public works plan up for vote

  • Associated Press
  • May 14, 2014 - 6:30 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A high-stakes gamble shaped up Wednesday over construction borrowing in the Minnesota House, which is running short on time to move a signature bill through in the waning days of session.

Majority Democrats planned to put an $846 million public works plan up for a vote Thursday despite the lack of clear assurances enough Republican votes will be there. The bill requires 81 votes — 60 percent — to pass because it authorizes state debt. That means at least eight Republicans have to go along if all Democrats do.

Under an agreement between House and Senate DFL leaders, the revised bill includes $22 million for the Lewis and Clark water project in southern Minnesota, $100 million for affordable housing, $126 million for the state Capitol renovation and $14 million to develop the new state park at Lake Vermilion. Colleges get a large share for their building needs.

The bill won't repeal an upcoming fire sprinkler mandate for certain-sized homes after Gov. Mark Dayton warned such a clause would provoke a veto.

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said the GOP wants to at least double the amount for the Lewis and Clark drinking water project to extend a planned pipeline to more towns in the parched southwestern corner of the state.

"We feel like that project is far more important than some things currently funded in their proposals," Daudt said. "If it stays exactly as it is, it won't have enough votes to pass."

Sunday is the final day lawmakers can pass bills, but they need time to push bills through the normal channels.

Legislative leaders were hoping for a pre-arranged deal, but those talks have faltered. They were building off a handshake deal last year on the size, which is meant to keep borrowing under $1 billion for the two years. Republicans were also promised they'd get to direct a share of the money.

House Capital Investment Committee Chairwoman Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, said she has accommodated that request.

"We have far more — far more — not only number of projects but dollar amounts for Republicans in this bill than last year," Hausman said. "So we have exceeded the deal."

A separate $200 million package that pays for additional projects in cash from a state surplus doesn't need Republican backing to advance.

© 2014 Star Tribune