But bills differ beyond Capitol, civic centers
When it comes to bonding in Minnesota this year, everyone can agree on one thing and one thing only: Capitol restoration. The slated set of repairs to the 108-year-old building has support from Gov. Mark Dayton and Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate. The $109 million for the project proposed by lawmakers this year would pay for more than half of the remaining costs, leaving just about $95 million left on the project tab for a future bonding bill.
In rolling out their omnibus bonding proposals this week, Dayton and House Democrats also signaled major investments in civic centers and construction on college campuses around the state. Dayton and House Democrats would like to spend between $750 and $800 million on bonding in 2013, despite the tradition of undertaking major capital investment packages only in even-numbered years.
The similarities mostly end there. In the coming weeks, Dayton and House Democrats will almost certainly butt heads on the level of bonding dollars for certain priority projects in the state. Dayton wants to funnel considerably more money into veterans and improvements to the state’s prison system, while Capital Investment chairwoman Alice Hausman focuses more funding on transit development and state parks and trails.
Senate DFL Majority Leader Tom Bakk has claimed publicly that he would prefer not to do a major bonding bill this year, though his chamber’s budget targets provide for a bill comparable in size to the Dayton and House packages. Senate Democrats have heard individual bonding bills in committee and introduced a standalone provision for Capitol restoration, but the caucus has no immediate plans to release an omnibus bonding proposal.
Meanwhile, Republicans are still working out their strategy with respect to using bonding votes as leverage in an end-of-session budget deal. Bonding bills require a 60 percent majority to pass in both chambers, meaning Democrats will need to court at least eight Republican votes in the House and two in the Senate to move a package of construction projects this year. While pledging support for Capitol restoration, legislative minority leaders have had a wait-and-see attitude toward bonding so far.
“We need to look at how we are going to spend our money before we look at maxing out our credit card and borrowing more,” GOP Rep. Matt Dean, the Republican lead on the Capital Investment Committee, said this week. ”We’ve been pretty clear that our priority is the budget.”
“I would write a different bill if I just needed a simple majority,” Hausman said on Tuesday, as she pored over the details of her omnibus bonding bill in committee. “But this bill, unlike all the other budget bills, requires a supermajority, and that’s a more complicated task.”
Dayton: Higher ed, vets and prison fixes
In introducing his $750 million bonding package Monday, Dayton made it clear that he wasn’t interested in bargaining away concessions on tax increases for GOP bonding votes. “They’ve been separate issues in the past,” Dayton said of bonding and tax proposals. “I think there’s a separation in there, clearly, and I would resist efforts to link them. … Ultimately, legislators have to decide whether they’re going to support 21,000 jobs or not.”
But some say the governor’s bonding proposal doesn’t include enough projects in GOP districts to garner much Republican support. “There will need to be a decision made by our caucus if there’s even going to be a bonding bill this year,” said GOP Rep. Greg Davids. “But as I look through the governor’s proposal, I think he may need to take a class in bonding bills 101 on how to pass a bonding bill. You have to have projects in enough members’ districts.”
Some investments, such as the civic centers and higher education projects, will hit a handful of Republican districts. Dayton wants to spend in infrastructure improvements to labs, classrooms and buildings on the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities campuses. That includes $85 million to complete the STEM Tate Laboratory renovation at the University and projects in Winona and Rochester.
Dayton would also like to see $60 million in bonding for regional civic center projects — St. Cloud ($10.1 million), Mankato ($14.5 million) and Rochester ($35 million) — in areas with some GOP representation. Dayton also directs dollars toward increasing the size of the Children’s Museum in St. Paul and reconstructing the Nicollet Avenue mall in Minneapolis. Dayton emphasized the need to “invest in downtowns” in order to keep regional centers prosperous.
The governor’s plan would also pump $46.6 million into improvements to roads and bridges around the state, but he includes little funding for transit and passenger rail. Dayton only designates $1.6 million for transit assistance in the St. Cloud area.
Citing long overdue construction obligations at the state’s prisons, the governor proposed spending more than $50 million on asset preservation with the Minnesota Department of Corrections. That includes $5.2 million for a fence around the Shakopee women’s prison and $31.7 million to create a new health services unit at the St. Cloud men’s prison. He proposes spending $46 million for improvements to the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter. Dayton also makes the Minneapolis Veterans housing facility a priority, designating $54.1 million to demolish, design and construct a new home.
Hausman passes on vets, boosts transit
House Capital Investment chairwoman Alice Hausman is calling for an $800 million bonding bill this session, and by her account, a little extra money can go a long way in garnering the votes needed for passage.
Republicans were immediately warmer to the House plan than the Dayton bonding bill. Rep. Greg Davids complimented Hausman for knowing “how to write a bonding bill that could pass” in committee on Tuesday. “It’s more geographically diverse, and it does some very good things for the state of Minnesota,” Davids said, calling it a “pretty good bill.”
Davids, in particular, is likely enticed by the $7 million for the Chatfield arts center in his district, and there are other projects sprinkled throughout the bill aimed at earning the support of GOP legislators. Hausman spends $1.5 million on the Red Wing River Renaissance Project, which falls in GOP Rep. Tim Kelly’s district. She spends another $1.3 million for a sewer project in Truman, represented by Republican Rep. Bob Gunther. She also includes the same civic center upgrades as Dayton in Rochester, St. Cloud and Mankato. While Hausman needs eight GOP votes to pass her bonding bill, she said she’s aiming for closer to 20 votes.
The largest share of Hausman’s bill goes to infrastructure on college campuses, which would get more than $210 million in bonding dollars under her bill. She also includes nearly $25 million to fund transit projects around the state, something lacking in Dayton’s bonding bill. The absence of transit dollars from Dayton’s bill concerned some suburban House DFLers.
“One of the major investments in the suburbs is transit, and there is no transit in the bonding bill for construction,” said Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley. “I know that the governor supports a transit tax for the Twin Cities, but I think it’d be a shame if the suburbs were stuck in the position of building construction projects all over the state and funding their own mass transit through a local sales tax. We don’t require that standard for anybody else, and it’s my hope that the Legislature does a little bit better than the governor in balancing those needs around the state.”
Hausman’s bill does not include some of the major investments Dayton proposed in corrections and in the next phase of construction on the Minneapolis Veterans home. Hasuman includes just $5 million in asset preservation for veterans and $3 million in asset preservation for the Department of Corrections. Hausman’s bill, however, would also pump about $36 million into the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter.
Hausman said the veterans funding has the potential to be the most “controversial” and “politicized” part of her bill. She said she’d prefer to hash out funding for veterans next year, after legislators meet with members of Congress to better understand the potentially problematic federal funding formula for veterans’ housing.
The lack of funding for veterans drew sharp comments from GOP Rep. Bob Dettmer, who said there’s a perception that the Legislature has misplaced priorities. “We are putting money into museums, state trails, sculpture gardens, nature centers and so forth,” Dettmer said, instead of the “men and woman who served.”
The House bill also repeals a nearly $50 million pot of bonding dollars whose recipients would be chosen by the Department of Employment and Economic Development. Republicans created the fund last year, but Hausman said the process was too controversial, so she opted to take it out of her bill. “We should have the courage to sit here and debate priorities,” she said.