ST. PAUL — Senate Republicans unveiled a bonding bill larger than proposed by their House counterparts, but Mankato’s request for $14.5 million in civic center funding was not included.
The borrowing bill does include $32 million for Rochester’s civic center and $10 million for St. Cloud’s civic center. The Senate majority leader and chair of the Capital Investment Committee, Dave Senjem, is from Rochester.
The Senate bill also leaves out the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center, which was seeking $40 million for renovation and expansion.
Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, said she was disappointed the area was left out — as it has been in the House bonding proposal.
She did find some solace in a promise by Senjem to continue discussing the Mankato civic center request for possible inclusion during conference committee hearings that will eventually take place to reconcile the House and Senate bills. While the Mankato civic center is in neither chamber’s proposal, it is in the governor’s bonding proposal so it could still be included in a final bill.
State Rep. Kathy Brynaert, DFL-Mankato, said the Senate GOP’s actions are “a slap in the face to the community.”
She said funding all or none of the civic centers is one thing, but funding two of the three regional centers is political.
Rochester and St. Cloud are represented by Republicans while Mankato/North Mankato are represented by three Democrats.
“There is no justification for this,” Brynaert said. “I think our community should speak loud and clear to Senate and House leadership about our place in the state.”
Mankato has for years been foiled in attempts to secure state funds. Mankato City Council member Mike Laven said Mankato has been working as long or longer on securing civic center funding as the other regional centers.
“It is unfair that Mankato was excluded from the Senate bonding bill. Funding for the civic center expansion is critical to securing the future of the MSU hockey program and the economic growth of the Greater Mankato region,” Laven said.
The Mankato contingent noted that Republican Sen. Julie Rosen of Fairmont, who sits on the committee that fashioned the bonding bill, did support the Mankato civic center request.
Sheran said funding the civic center would promote the GOP’s stated goal of job creation.
“They’re not expending bonding money for job creation in our part of the state. The fact the Mankato arena is excluded and the Rochester and St. Cloud arenas are included is an inequity,” Sheran said.
She said the money for Mankato’s arena would require nominal borrowing by the state for a large economic impact during construction and beyond. “The economic opportunity for not only the Mankato area but the state is phenomenal compared to the nominal cost in bonding.”
Senjem said the civic center funding for Rochester would boost the state economy. “It’s fundamentally an economic development project. Given the amount of outside money that we’ll attract, that is a real net positive for Minnesota,” he told the Post-Bulletin.
The Senate proposal sets up negotiations between three widely varying bonding proposals.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton had proposed spending $775 million on bonding and included the Mankato, St. Cloud and Rochester civic center requests as well as $40 million for renovation and expansion of the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center.
House Republicans came out with a $280 million bonding proposal that included little or nothing for civic center projects in Mankato, Rochester or St. Cloud and nothing for the Treatment Center.
The House also proposed a separate $220 million in borrowing to renovate the State Capitol.
The Senate alternative puts a much heavier emphasis on individual projects, including $179 million for colleges and universities and $125 million for state asset preservation. The Senate’s proposal for the State Capitol is much smaller at $25 million.
Video of Senate Capital Investment Committee meeting