With just hours to go before the end of the 2013 Legislative session, Democratic leaders are trying to hammer out a deal to fund repairs on the roof over their heads.
A $800 million bonding bill that would have funded $109 million in repairs and upgrades to the century-old State Capitol -- and many other infrastructure projects around the state -- failed to pass the House last week. Late Sunday night the Senate offered a compromise, whittling the bonding bill down to $132 million, just enough to fund repairs and a new parking structure at the Capitol.
But House Capital Improvement Committee Chairwoman Alice Hausman, who spent months putting together the original bonding bill only to see it fail to get enough Republican votes to pass, has her doubts that even a pared-down bonding bill will fare any better with GOP members.
"Clearly now it's a very small bill. I'm not happy about that, but I'm a team player," said Hausman, DFL-St. Paul. "But we need the minority party to agree to anything, eight people."
Bonding bills require a supermajority to pass -- which means eight House Republicans would have to back the pared-down bill. Only three supported the $800 million bill, with the rest of the caucus voting to wait until 2014, the traditional bonding year in the Legislative cycle.
Hausman said she also has reservations about prioritizing repairs to the Capitol over all the other projects that would have been funded by the bonding bill.
"It's hard for me to say it's more important than absolutely all other infrastructure, including higher education and housing," she said, noting that other projects in her original bill, including new campus facilities at the Minnesota Colleges and Universities system, have been on the bonding waiting list for years. "Higher ed is always the most important part of a bonding bill. That is our future... And it's a little hard for me to give up housing, when I think we're restoring this building, the People's House, when at the same time 25 percent more people have no house."
The Legislature has until midnight to finish its work for the year.