House GOP: Borrow $825 Million For Public Works Project

Repairing, not building, is a public works priority for Minnesota House Republicans.

Instead of constructing lots of new buildings, they propose fixing roofs, painting peeling walls and other such routine but needed work.

The House public works plan, to be funded by the state selling bonds, would spend $825 million, Republicans announced late Wednesday afternoon, May 2. Of that, $364 million would go to preserve state facilities.

Higher education spending is an example of how the money would be spent. Of nearly $123 million that would be borrowed for state-run colleges and universities, $80 million would be used for general asset preservation, with some specific facility renovations on top of that. The same story can be told for many other parts of the bonding bill.

“Minnesotans expect us to maintain public infrastructure, following the simple notion that we should take care of the property we own,” House bonding Chairman Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, said. “We are addressing the important needs of our cities and state, while respecting the taxpayers. This is a sound bill with good geographic balance, and I look forward to bipartisan support.”

The $825 million legislation written by Republicans who control the House would be repaid by general tax revenues. When other types of funding are added in, the bill approaches $1 billion. Senate Republicans have not unveiled their bill.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton released his bonding proposal in January, with $1.5 billion in mostly state projects. He also said $858 million of local projects merit state bonding, for a $2.3 billion total.

The governor’s office, which for weeks encouraged legislators to release their bonding plans, did not immediately react to the House proposal.

The Legislature must act by midnight May 20.

Since borrowing money needs a super majority of votes, majority Republicans in both chambers will need Democratic votes; they can pass most bills without help of the Democratic minorities.

Usually, the even-numbered year legislative sessions center on bonding. But this year, how to spend a budget surplus and a number of other issues have dominated.

The Senate is expected to offer a bonding bill spending a similar amount of money to what the House proposes.

Like Dayton, the House bill includes funds for local governments to build local water and sewage treatment projects. The House sets aside $120 million. The House bill put another $120 million toward local and road and bridge projects and $153 million for conservation and other clean-water projects.

The single biggest item is $30 million to repair and update the Fort Snelling Visitor Center for the Minnesota Historical Society. Next is upgrading Pillsbury Hall on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities’ campus, a $24 million project.

The top Minnesota State projects are building renovations and upgrades on the Bemidji State University and Rochester Community and Technical College campuses, each priced at about $22 million.

A few other notable projects in the House plan include:

  • $25 million for school safety grants around the state.
  • $15 million to complete a long-planned Red Lake school improvement.
  • $20 million for flood prevention.
  • $10 million for Capitol security upgrades.