House looks at $850 million bonding bill, with $125 million more in cash

Hausman

By Don Davis

The Minnesota House will consider borrowing $850 million for public construction and using part of a state budget surplus for another $125 million in projects, but the lawmaker whose job it is to write the bills says that is not enough money,.

“The one defining word is ‘inadequate,’” Rep. Alice Hausman, D-St. Paul, said Tuesday in introducing her proposal to the House Capital Investment Committee.

Hausman said she “hopes for a miracle” and leaders come up with more money for public works projects.

That is unlikely, however, since Democratic and Republican legislative leaders already have agreed to cap public works borrowing at $850 million. It is not clear what will happen to the cash-funded projects because Republicans generally see the cap as being on both cash and borrowed money.

Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, normally is the Republican most likely to vote for a public works bill, funded by the state selling bonds, but he said he would not support the one released Tuesday because it severely underfunds Capitol building restoration needs and some other significant projects.

Hausman’s bill, which the committee plans to approve Wednesday night, includes money for state college and university projects, expanding the state trail system, helping communities build sewer systems and expanding civic centers in many communities.

But what is not in the project raised eyebrows Tuesday.

Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, questioned why the bill only includes $20 million to complete a multi-year Capitol building renovation project. The Dayton administration says $126 million is needed this year, but Hausman only included $20 million.

Hausman called the lower amount “a placeholder” that likely will expand as the bill goes through the legislative process.

However, as spending is increased in some areas, it likely will be reduced elsewhere if leaders stick to their spending limit.

“When you put a bill like this together and it is a small bill and you are told to include certain projects … it is like you are being asked to perform a miracle,” Hausman said.

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