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House bonding bill on hold for some last-minute tweaking

Minnesota Capitol
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
The GOP bonding bill includes $44 million for renovations to the state Capitol.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers said that the GOP is working to adjust its roughly $500 million bonding bill, which stalled in the chamber Thursday night because of objections from Gov. Mark Dayton.

The governor would like more parity between Minnesota’s higher education institutions in the bill.

As it stands in the House, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system would receive $145 million while the U would get only $54 million.

Zellers said he’s working with Rep. Larry Howes, chairman of the House Capital Investment Committee, to reformat the bonding bill. He said its size likely would stay about the same.

This year’s package adds to the $500 million bill passed as a compromise to end last year’s state government shutdown.

“If you squeeze the bubble someplace here, then something else pops up over there, so I think it’s probably balancing that out,” Zellers said on Friday.

“I think we’re probably getting closer and closer,” he added. “You know, there were some provisions the governor said he was going to veto and so rather than have yet another veto … maybe we have to rake out a couple of things, but the number and the projects are looking good.”

DFLers and the governor are also unhappy that the GOP’s borrowing proposal, which is significantly smaller than the Dayton’s, doesn’t fund the Southwest light-rail line, a St. Paul Saints Stadium or civic center renovations.

The Senate plans to take up the proposal after House action. Here’s a rundown of what’s in the House bill:

• The U would receive $40 million for general upkeep funding, which is called Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR). It would also receive $4 million for the Itasca Biological Station project and $10 million to bring a power plant back online.

• MnSCU would get $30 million in HEAPR funds, plus roughly $115 million more for laboratory renovations and other upgrades across the state.

• The DNR could receive up to $30 million for flood mitigation as part of its total $50.5 million allotment from the House.

• Renovations for the state Capitol in St. Paul — which could total more than $200 million — would receive $44 million under the bill.

• The state Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Council would receive roughly $66 million for transit upgrades, with a small amount of money going to parks and wastewater treatment.

• The Department of Employment and Economic Development would receive $83 million, much of it going to grant programs.

Left out were several projects Dayton wanted — civic center projects in Mankato, Rochester and St. Cloud and a St. Paul regional ballpark, the city’s top priority.

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Notice

A lot of this funding does not create new jobs, it goes to existing structures and is a windfall for out state colleges. More pork for the locals, and nothing for cities, particularly Democratic ones.