On Monday afternoon DFLers put up a united front in pushing the 2012 bonding bill through the Minnesota House on a 99-32 vote. All 60 of the chamber’s DFL votes were cast in favor of the bill, ensuring its easy passage despite the majority Republican caucus’ narrow (39-32) support for the package. The bill was expected to be taken up in the Senate later Monday.
The spreadsheet for the $496 million bill, sponsored by Capital Investment Chair Larry Howes, R-Walker, was released on Sunday. The bill pays for construction projects ranging from roads to college campuses. Several DFLers said in floor speeches that they were reluctant to vote for the bill because it failed to include projects of importance for their communities, but in the end not a single Democrat dissented.
The bill now awaits a vote in the Senate.
The House had planned a vote on bonding last Friday. But DFL Gov. Mark Dayton objected to the $90 million gap in funding for the University of Minnesota ($54 million) and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System ($145 million). The version passed on Monday allocates an additional $10 million to the U of M while cutting MnSCU projects by $12 million. The bill includes $44 million for restoration of the state Capitol and $30 million for flood hazard mitigation (in addition to $50 million for flood projects that was approved in last year’s bonding bill). Local bridge work gets $30 million. And the bill makes a small start toward improving the security hospital and the sex offender treatment facility in St. Peter.
One of the unique components of the bill is $50 million for the state Department of Employment and Economic Development to give grants to public projects. The grants have the potential to go to projects like civic centers that aren’t in the bill.
Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, moved to strike the grant program and spend that $50 million on local road projects. He referred to the proposal as a “slush fund” for the Dayton administration. His amendment was defeated 84-47.
Legislators in Rochester, Mankato and St. Cloud expressed disappointment that civic center projects in their cities weren’t included; legislators in Minneapolis and the western suburbs complained that the bill didn’t include funding for the Southwest Corridor light rail project between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie.
“This is a very modest bonding bill. What’s troubling is it doesn’t prepare us for the future,” said Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis.
To conservative Republicans, the bill didn’t appear so modest. The 32 Republicans casting no votes is a list of the chamber’s right wing on fiscal matters. They are: Reps. Bruce Anderson of Buffalo Township, Diane Anderson of Eagan, Sarah Anderson of Plymouth, Mike Benson of Rochester, Kurt Bills of Rosemount, Mark Buesgens of Jordan, Kurt Daudt of Crown, Connie Doepke of Orono, Keith Downey of Edina, Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa, Sondra Erickson of Princeton, Glenn Gruenhagen of Glencoe, Tom Hackbarth of Cedar, David Hancock of Bemidji, Mary Liz Holberg of Lakeville, Joe Hoppe of Chaska, Andrea Kieffer of Woodbury, Mary Kiffmeyer of Big Lake, Ernie Leidiger of Mayer, Jenifer Loon of Eden Prairie, Tara Mack of Apple Valley, Joe McDonald of Delano, Pam Myhra of Burnsville, Joyce Peppin of Rogers, Branden Petersen of Andover, Duane Quam of Byron, Linda Runbeck of Circle Pines, Tim Sanders of Blaine, Peggy Scott of Andover, Kirk Stensrud of Eden Prairie, Doug Wardlow of Eagan and Kelby Woodard of Belle Plaine.