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House, Senate lawmakers unveil $1.3 billion cash-only capital investment proposal

Members of the House and Senate capital investment committees listen May 12 as nonpartisan House and Senate fiscal staff walk through a nearly $1.3 billion spreadsheet. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)
Members of the House and Senate capital investment committees listen May 12 as nonpartisan House and Senate fiscal staff walk through a nearly $1.3 billion spreadsheet. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)

In March, the House passed a pair of capital investment bills that would appropriate more than $2 billion for projects such as road and bridge repairs, preservation of state buildings, and needed repairs to wastewater treatment plants. Some projects would be paid for with cash from the General Fund; some from bond sale proceeds.

HF669 has not yet received Senate support because a supermajority is needed for approval, thus, Republican support. A cash-only proposal, HF670, that would only need a simple Senate majority for approval has been referred to a committee.

Unveiled to the House and Senate capital investment committees Friday is a package that would instead use $1.3 billion in cash for capital projects. General Fund appropriations only need a simple majority to pass.

[MORE: See the proposed spreadsheet]

“With time in the session running short, the proposal we’ve unveiled today isn’t our first choice when it comes to passing capital investment legislation this session, but it’s the most effective and accessible option available to us,” Rep. Fue Lee (DFL-Mpls) and Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul) said in a joint statement. They chair the respective committees.

Joint Hearing: Senate and House Committee Meeting on Capital Investment - 05/12/23 (Video courtesy Minnesota Senate Media Services)

The largest chunk of the new proposal is $295 million for grants to cities and nonprofits. The 80 listed projects include money for firefighting facilities, youth shelters, ice rinks, inclusive playgrounds, health clinics and museums, among others.  

Also proposed is $210.9 million for water and sewer projects.

Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City) was nearly speechless after seeing the cash-only proposal, saying, for example, water and bridge projects wouldn’t receive enough money to be completed.  

“We did an awful good job with what we passed off the House Floor,” Urdahl said. “I do not think what we have before us right now is a very good bill. It doesn’t address a lot of the needs of Minnesota that need to be addressed.”

Rep. Liz Reyer (DFL-Eagan) acknowledges the new proposal is painful, but it’s the unfortunate reality of going from the size of the original bills — $1.7 billion — to the cash bill presented Friday. She spoke glowingly about the inclusion of nonprofits to address the health and safety needs of many who have been underserved and underrepresented.

Among the larger spending proposals would be:

  • $142.9 million to the Department of Transportation, including $45 million for undesignated roads and bridges and 17 other projects;
  • $124.2 million to the Metropolitan Council including $44 million for bus rapid transit infrastructure;
  • $116.6 million to the Department of Natural Resources;
  • $79.3 million to the Department of Human Services, including $50 million for emergency shelters;
  • $77.8 million for improvements to the Hastings veterans’ home;
  • $52.8 million to the Pollution Control Agency, with about half going to an anaerobic digester in Hennepin County;
  • $45 million each to the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State system for asset preservation and replacement;
  • $40.5 million for public safety infrastructure, including $11.4 million for a new state emergency operations center; and
  • $13.8 million to the Department of Administration for the Capital Asset Preservation Account, Capitol Complex security upgrades and Ford Building demolition.

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