An $800 million bonding bill failed to pass off the House floor on Friday afternoon, and a smaller, scaled-back proposal is unlikely with only days left in session, according to the bill’s sponsor.
The proposal failed on a 76-56 vote on Friday, with only three Republican legislators — Reps. Tama Theis, Chris Swedzinski and Mark Uglem — voting yes. Bonding bills need a 60 percent supermajority to pass, meaning Democrats would have needed to attract eight Republican votes to reach the 81 required.
The proposal included more than $200 million in funding for higher education infrastructure, $55 million for three civic center projects in Rochester, Mankato and St. Cloud, and money for parks and trails projects around the state. The largest single project was $109 million for the Capitol restoration project, a proposal that had bipartisan support all session.
The bill’s chief sponsor, DFL Rep. Alice Hausman, told members that whatever the House passed would then be taken up on the Senate floor, where there currently is no bonding package.
“There is no time for an alternative arrangement, so if you have an interest in this bill, this is your only opportunity,” she said at the start of the debate. “There is no Plan B because of the timing. If we just fund the Capitol, are we saying the Capitol is more important than higher education? The Capitol is certainly a worthy project, but is it more important than wastewater infrastructure? If you have an interest in anything else, this is your one opportunity.”
After the vote, Hausman said she has no plans to try and craft a smaller bonding bill with just the Capitol project before the session ends. “Just one word: tragic,” she said of the vote. “There were people who promised they would vote yes, so why would I ever trust that they were telling the truth [on another bonding bill]?”
Hausman tried to court Republican votes for the bill, including $1.5 million for the Red Wing River Renaissance Project, which falls in GOP Rep. Tim Kelly’s district, and another $1.3 million for a sewer project in Truman, represented by Republican Rep. Bob Gunther. She also funded a trail project in GOP Rep. Denny McNamara’s district, a park in Rep. Tim O’Driscoll’s district and the Minnesota Zoo in Rep. Anna Wills’ district.
But Republicans immediately signaled their distaste for the package. GOP Rep. Rod Hamilton accused Hausman of holding flood relief for southwestern Minnesota in the bill “hostage” if Republicans didn’t put up enough votes to pass the larger bill. Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said Republicans want to see a budget completed before a bonding bill. “Today we are taking up a bonding bill in a non-bonding year, and frankly a very large one at that,” Daudt said. “This is one more distraction from getting the work done that we need to do.”