The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

April 9, 2013

Dems push for bonding projects but GOP holds key votes

ST. PAUL — Democrats in charge of the Minnesota House on Tuesday unveiled a plan for publicly financed construction that sprinkles a host of projects across Republican-held districts, but it is unclear whether it can attract the needed GOP votes to pass.

The new proposal would pay for civic center renovations, college science labs, a state Capitol fix-up and museum and trail projects around the state. It clocks in at $858 million worth of construction, about $800 million of which would require state borrowing.

House Capital Investment Committee Chairwoman Alice Hausman said she fashioned a large plan to take advantage of low interest rates and stretch taxpayer dollars further.

"It completes projects that have been in the queue for far too long," she said.

It is slightly larger than the bonding bill announced Monday by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and differs in the mix of what gets funded. Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, conceded that she devised her bill with the need to find at least eight Republican votes for the supermajority required for passage. Democrats have a 73-61 House majority, but issuing state debt requires 81 House votes.

For instance, there's $7 million for an arts center in Chatfield, which falls in the district of GOP Rep. Greg Davids. And there's $1.3 million for a sewer project in Truman, represented by veteran Republican Rep. Bob Gunther. Costly civic center upgrades in Rochester and St. Cloud could also be hard for Republican legislators in those areas to pass on.

While Davids praised Hausman's attempt as "a pretty good bill," neither he nor his GOP colleagues were ready to commit to supporting it. Some have concerns about timing because bonding bills aren't typically so big in odd-numbered years, when setting the state budget is the Legislature's main task. Others questioned the priorities.

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