Senate Democrats have opted to pay the remaining cost of the Capitol restoration project in cash through their tax bill rather than through a bonding bill, raising fears that a larger package of capital investment projects may not pass this year.
DFL Sen. Ann Rest offered an amendment to the omnibus Senate tax bill on Wednesday that would pay cash for the $203 million remaining on repairs to the more than 100-year-old building. The Rest amendment would also allow the state to enter a lease-to-purchase agreement to construct a new office building near the Capitol. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said he didn’t want to see the Capitol renovation, which has been pronounced a priority by all four legislative caucuses as well as Gov. Mark Dayton, held hostage in end-of-session negotiations.
Democrats need a three-fifths majority to pass a bonding bill in both chambers, meaning Republicans will need to support the effort.
“My concern is the Capitol restoration shouldn’t be held hostage in some end-of-session negotiations in order to do what we all agree should be done. The Capitol restoration is of high priority for just about everyone around here,” Bakk said. “We are at some risk of not getting a bonding bill, and I don’t think using the Capitol as leverage is right.”
The new office building, which would also include a parking facility, does not receive a direct appropriation in the tax bill.
“What this does is just assure [that] even if the negotiations in the House for a bonding bill fail, the Capitol restoration would still go forward,” Bakk said.
House Democrats have introduced an $800 million package of bonding projects, which is awaiting a vote on the floor later this session. Dayton also rolled out a $750 million list of projects. But in addition to rumored fears that the House may lack the GOP votes to pass a bonding package, Senate Democrats have expressed reluctance to pursue a major bonding bill during a budget session.