Republicans in the Minnesota House proposed an $825 million public works bonding bill Wednesday that focuses on clean water infrastructure, improving roads and fixing state buildings.
The public works package from the House’s GOP majority is dramatically smaller than the $1.5 billion proposal DFL Gov. Mark Dayton released earlier this year. Republican leaders in the House and Senate said when Dayton put out his plan that their own would be more modest.
“Minnesotans expect us to maintain public infrastructure, following the simple notion that we should take care of the property we own,” House Capital Investment Committee Chairman Dean Urdahl, R-Acton Township, said in a statement. “We are addressing the important needs of our cities and state, while respecting the taxpayers. This is a sound bill with good geographic balance, and I look forward to bipartisan support.”
The bill includes $120 million for local water infrastructure projects and about $120 million for local road improvement grants and other road- and transportation-related projects. About two-thirds of the proposed spending is dedicated to brick-and-mortar projects. It also includes $25 million in grants to school districts for safety measures.
The construction package includes a number of local projects that were not part of the DFL governor’s plan, such as $18 million for the Second Harvest Food Bank in Brooklyn Park and $15 million for redevelopment of Minneapolis’ Upper Harbor Terminal. The Capital Investment Committee visited about 100 potential projects last year to decide which to include in the plan, according to a House news release.
GOP leaders gave Urdahl the difficult job of cutting billions of dollars in funding requests down to about $800 million, said Rep. Alice Hausman, ranking DFL member on the Capital Investment Committee. The plan will disappoint state agency and higher education officials, she said, and Minnesota will fall further behind on preserving its buildings, trails and other assets.
The state has a long tradition of leveraging its bonding capacity to fund construction projects that are too expensive for the state treasury to cover. Dayton has pushed for approximately $1.5 billion bonding bills the past three years, saying low interest rates make it a good time to invest in the infrastructure projects. In 2017, legislators pared his plan to $998 million; the 2016 bonding bill failed at the end of that session.
Dayton’s current proposal includes $542 million for construction and maintenance on college and university campuses, and higher education projects make up about a third of his plan. In the House plan, the University of Minnesota would receive $78.5 million and the Minnesota state university system would get nearly $123 million.
Another Dayton proposal — $50 million to design and construct bus rapid transit lines — was not in the House package.
Senate members have not yet released their bonding bill, but have previously said the scale of the spending will likely be similar to what the House proposed.