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The House on Thursday rejected by one vote a $221 million proposal to restore and upgrade the state Capitol.

House rejects Capitol restoration project by one vote

Minnesota State Capitol (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

The House on Thursday rejected by one vote a $221 million proposal to restore and upgrade the state Capitol.

A commission led by Gov. Mark Dayton had presented lawmakers with a plan to restore aging systems and restore the architectural details of the 106-year-old statehouse. During the debate, Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, held up a chunk of marble that had fallen off the Capitol to make his point.

“[The Capitol] is the symbol that we leave for future generations. …What does it say about us if we let the symbol of Minnesota crumble?” Urdahl said.

The bill needed 81 votes to garner the three-fifths majority required to pass bills that borrow money. When the board was closed after several minutes, it failed 80-50, with three absent members. All Republicans except Rep. Mark Buesgens voted in favor. Eleven DFLers voted for it: Reps. Tom Anzelc, Kerry Gauthier, Mindy Greiling, Alice Hausman, Bill Hilty, Diane Loeffler, Kate Knuth, Carlos Mariani, Joe Mullery, Mary Murphy and John Ward.

Several DFL legislators objected to the proposal because large portions of the funding for the six-year project won’t be spent for a couple of years. A number of DFLers referred to projects in their districts and complained that authorizing the Capitol project comes at the expense of such projects.

“It’s hard for me to believe we need the whole amount right now,” said Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester.

Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, the bill’s chief author, responded that the state can negotiate a better price and ensure that the project will be carried out efficiently if the funding for the entire cost is secured up front.

“By committing, we’re actually going to get a guaranteed price,” Howes said.

The Senate provided $25 million for fixes to the Capitol’s exterior in their bonding bill.

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