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Governor proposes $2 billion bonding package for 2020

House Photography file photo
House Photography file photo

Gov. Tim Walz said Wednesday the state should borrow more than $2 billion this year to invest in projects meant to benefit public safety, housing, water quality, higher education and other areas of need around Minnesota.

The governor would like to use $2.03 billion in general-obligation bonds to fund that work, along with an additional $571 million in financing – including General Fund cash – to bring the total package to $2.59 billion.

Walz detailed the need for that money in a release Wednesday morning. 

Walz has discussed the need for state investment over the last several days, unveiling his bonding request for the upcoming legislative session – which is scheduled to begin Feb. 11 – one segment at a time, saying he would like focus attention on the Minnesota’s needs rather than the total cost.

Titled the “Local Jobs and Projects Plan,” the money would be allocated as follows:

Walz said his proposal includes more local projects than any bonding bill in the state’s history. He has personally toured the state visiting a number of communities and organizations that would like funding.

“We had a record number of requests for state assistance from communities across Minnesota, which is why we took the step of visiting these projects ourselves and getting feedback directly from communities and Minnesotans on what was most important to them,” Walz said in a statement. “That’s why this plan looks different than any plan before it – it’s Minnesota’s plan, and these are Minnesota’s projects. The need is real, interest rates are low, and the best time to fix a leaky roof isn’t after your house has flooded. The time to act is now.”

The governor’s 2019 bonding proposal was $1.27 billion and included $345 million for transportation, $300 million for higher education and $150 million for housing. Bonding bills require a three-fifths majority (60 percent) to pass the Legislature, however, and there was not enough support for a large bonding package in 2019.

But the second, even-numbered, year of the legislative session has historically been when large bonding bills are passed, and a significant bonding package seems more likely in 2020.

Leaders from both parties seem to agree that bonding will be one of the centerpieces of the 2020 legislative session, although the price tag will be the subject of much debate in the coming months.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) has voiced her support for a robust bonding bill this year saying low interest rates and the potential of tougher economic times in the future make it a good time for the state to make investments.

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) said during a press conference in early December, announcing the state’s most recent budget forecast, that a bonding bill is a priority for House Republicans but that it needs to be of a “reasonable” size. He said he doesn’t believe the funding total in the 2020 bonding bill “will start with a 2.”

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) said earlier this week he prefers a bonding bill similar in size to those passed in recent years, which would be less than a billion dollars.

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