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$1 billion-plus Senate bonding bill comes as adjournment deadline nears

ST. PAUL — Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, D-Plummer, unveiled a bonding proposal topping $1 billion to pay for public works projects around the state on Monday. It came two weeks before the Legislature must adjourn for the year.

The state would borrow $846 million through selling bonds that would be repaid by general taxes. Some projects would be funded by bonds to be repaid by other sources. The Stumpf bill also would spend nearly $200 million in cash from a state budget surplus.

While the proposal matches total borrowing in a House plan, specific projects in the bills vary. The legislative bonding level falls a bit short of what Dayton proposes.

Stumpf, chairman of the committee that considers public works projects, said the state received about $4 billion in requests from local governments and state agencies for projects. Public facilities are aging, he said, and money is needed to repair them.

State-run colleges and universities would get more than $250 million of the money, which Stumpf said would help train workers. Some of the money would go to repair buildings; other money would be spent on new facilities.

“Businesses all over the state were eager for higher-trained workers,” Stumpf said he learned while traveling the state.

Stumpf said he tried to focus on basic needs such as repairing buildings like the state Capitol, transportation, economic development and housing. But Republicans were critical of the bill, saying projects such as transportation and southwest Minnesota’s Lewis and Clark water system were shortchanged in proposals by the Democratic governor and legislative leaders.

Lewis and Clark, which has become the hot-button bonding topic, needs about $70 million to provide water to the Luverne and Worthington areas of southwestern Minnesota. None of the proposals provide that much. The Senate’s suggestion is paying $13 million to keep the project going, while Dayton and the House want to spend $20 million.

Republicans were critical of funding projects such as a Minneapolis sculpture garden instead of Lewis and Clark.

Three-fifths of the House and Senate must approve of a bonding bill, which means some Republicans will need to join Democrats who control the Legislature if a bonding bill is to pass. The cash spending, which will be in a separate bill, only needs a simple majority.

Stumpf said he expects the House and Senate to pass different bills, forcing negotiators to work out differences in a conference committee.

He said legislative leaders want to adjourn for the year by the end of the week, but he said that work may not be done by then.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.