The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 21, 2014

First-draft bonding bill aims high

Final proposal likely to be much thinner

ST. PAUL — Rep. Alice Hausman’s first draft of a bonding bill proposes $1.34 billion in spending — including all the big Mankato-area projects — and it’s the package she hopes the House will pass.

At this point, though, the bonding committee chair has some persuading to do before a bill that large becomes politically realistic. Legislative leaders earlier in the session agreed in principle to borrowing of $850 million plus $125 million in cash, she acknowledged.

Her bill is more than one-third larger than that target, which the St. Paul Democrat called a “straitjacket.”

“Frankly, it’s not good for the state,” she said.

Like Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal, her bill contains $14.5 million for the Mankato civic center expansion and $56.3 million to renovate the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter. Hausman’s larger bill also found room for a $25.8 million clinical sciences building for Minnesota State University, which wasn’t in Dayton’s proposal.

“They’re looking for the (career) niches that we need,” she said.

Still, her bill disappointed some, by leaving out a water system in southwest Minnesota ($20 million), an ammunition plant cleanup in Arden Hills ($29 million), a redesign of Nicollet Mall ($20 million) as well as remodeling and expansion at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program in St. Peter (7.4 million).

Hausman said former Gov. Arne Carlson signed a $1 billion bill 16 years ago. In today’s dollars, that bill would cost $1.5 billion, she said.

“We’re investing less,” she said, “and it’s hurting our state.”

But, because the bonding bill requires a three-fifths majority to pass, Hausman will have to persuade at least some Republicans to vote for her bill.

Republican leaders have consistently stuck to a goal closer to $850 million.

Hausman said she got assurances last year from individual Republicans that they’d vote for the bill. But that didn’t work — her large 2013 bonding bill failed to pass — and she needs new tactics.

“I need some clear sense of what’s going to get those votes,” she said.

Hausman’s larger proposal includes $19.4 million in parks and trails acquisition and development, compared to $5 million in Dayton’s proposal. Her bill includes $400,000 toward a trail between Mankato and St. Peter.

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