The conventional wisdom just a few weeks ago held that the best opportunity for the Minnesota Legislature to pass a capital spending bill had passed by.
The idea was that lawmakers would be reluctant to approve such a big-ticket measure so close to an election.
And there was certainly grounds for skepticism. Minnesota’s divided government has repeatedly failed to come to the collective consensus required for a borrowing bill (60% in each house). The supermajority requirement effectively gives each party a veto on the measure, and in the ever-partisan atmosphere that pervades the Capitol, it has been easier to block a bill than to pass one.
But when the Legislature gathered Monday for what has become the monthly special session to go through another partisan ritual (the GOP-led Senate voting to reject the extension of the peacetime emergency declared by Gov. Tim Walz, the DFL-led House approving it), House Speaker Melissa Hortman had a surprise: The House would vote on a $1.36 billion bonding bill Wednesday. She said she expected to draw at least six Republican votes, enough to reach the three-fifths requirement despite the lack of cooperation from the GOP leadership.
And she was right; the bill, which passed after more than eight hours of debate, drew more than two dozen Republican votes. The Senate, long viewed as the more favorable chamber on the bonding bill, is expected to vote today, although Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has been grumbling about some of the tradeoffs being made to get the bill through the House.
The final push seems to have been inspired by the need for some slow-to-support lawmakers to have this accomplishment to show to the voters. Even with the pressure of the looming election, it is not coming easily.
This bill is smaller than the governor sought, but it does include more than $7 million for riverbank stabilization in Mankato, where erosion has jeopardized a well that is a crucial part of the city’s water system. It includes money to repair and replace failing water systems in Vernon Center and Waldorf. It includes funding for Highways 93 and 169 in Henderson, which is too often now isolated by flooding. All of them are worthy and important uses of public money.
This should have been approved months ago. Better late than never.