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Under the Senate bonding proposal, the Minnesota Correctional Facility-St. Cloud gets $16.2 million to replace ancient, rotting clay sewer pipes. That represents full funding of the Corrections Department’s request for the project. The House offered no money. (AP photo: St. Cloud Times)
Under the Senate bonding proposal, the Minnesota Correctional Facility-St. Cloud gets $16.2 million to replace ancient, rotting clay sewer pipes. That represents full funding of the Corrections Department’s request for the project. The House offered no money. (AP photo: St. Cloud Times)

Senate pulls out wallet for several key DOC, DHS priorities

The Senate bonding bill released on May 9 has one primary characteristic in common with its House counterpart—it is worth $825 million. Much else distinguishes the two bills.

In our at-a-glance skim of the Senate bill, we find four differences of particular interest to attorneys—especially those who have criminal justice clients.

  • The Senate bill funds what acting Department of Human Services Commissioner Chuck Johnson has identified as his agency’s top bonding priority—a Phase II request for Community Preparation Services at St. Peter’s Minnesota Sex Offender Program. The agency asked for $16.2 million; the Senate allocates $8 million. The House version doesn’t fund an expansion of the program, into which offenders are being court-ordered at an accelerating rate, officials indicate.
  • DHS’s St. Peter campus also gets a $2.2 million infusion for new air conditioning, ventilation and electrical upgrades in its dietary building. The kitchen there is said to turn into a steam bath in summer. There was no funding for this project in the House version.
  • The Minnesota Correctional Facility-St. Cloud gets $16.2 million to replace ancient, rotting clay sewer pipes. That represents full funding of the Corrections Department’s request for the project. The House offered no money.
  • The Senate bonding bill actually exceeds the DOC’s $1.7 million request to expand Willow River’s boot-camp-like Challenge Incarceration Program. The bill dedicates $2 million to that project, which would increase statewide prison capacity by about 45 beds. The House bonding bill doesn’t fund it.

Lest anyone think that the House is playing the cheapskate, however, note that the lower chamber’s bonding bill offers $20 million to the DOC for asset preservation—mostly to fix degraded pipes, windows, roofs walls and other aspects of the department’s aging properties. The Senate offers only $4 million to that cause.

Neither amount comes close to the DOC’s $40 million asset preservation request. Commissioner Tom Roy has vowed he will keep fighting to the end of session to convince lawmakers for the full $40 million. That, he says, is a small percentage of the DOC’s overall $250 million in asset preservation needs.

The Senate bonding bill was scheduled for its first committee stop at Capital Investment on May 10.

The House version cleared its final committee hurdle one day earlier, when it was approved by House Ways and Means in a divided voice vote. It moves to the House floor for a scheduled May 14 debate and vote by all members.

DFLers’ hopes that Ways and Means would recraft its budget resolution to allow for an increased bonding package were dashed Wednesday. However, Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, the House bonding bill’s author, said it remains possible that the bill could grow as a result of House floor amendments.

Both bills fall well short of Gov. Mark Dayton’s insistence that a $1.5 billion bonding bill is needed for the session.

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