The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

May 17, 2013

Minnesota House defeats construction projects bill

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A state Capitol facelift, college campus building projects and regional civic center upgrades got thrown in limbo Friday when the Minnesota House failed to muster enough votes for an $800 million construction bill.

The bill fell five votes short of an 81-vote supermajority needed for passage, a rare area where Republicans wielded veto power in a state government controlled by Democrats. The bill involved selling long-term bonds, which subjects it to a three-fifths threshold for passage. Its failure left a major renovation of the Capitol, already well underway, in question with just over three days left in the session.

"Just one word: Tragic," said Rep. Alice Hausman, the St. Paul Democrat who sponsored the measure. Hausman said a handful of Republicans who voted no had promised their support.

Construction bills often win backing from both parties for their ability to generate local construction jobs and spread dollars to communities around the state. In addition to getting stymied on that bill, Democratic legislative leaders also abandoned another goal of many in the party: increases in the state gas tax and the Twin Cities metro area sales tax to pay for road and transit projects, which struggled after Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton refused to support the gas tax hike.

Both the House and Senate worked into the night Friday, rushing to finish the state budget before the late Monday deadline for adjourning the regular session. The House planned a late-night session to vote on one of the biggest portions of the state general fund, the health and human services budget. The massive document, finalized in recent days by House and Senate negotiators, includes a 5-percent pay increase for nursing home workers.

The Legislature also sent Dayton a higher education budget that includes a tuition freeze at public colleges and universities, puts more money into state grants to students, and grants resident tuition to the children of immigrants who are not documented.

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