ST. PAUL – The Minnesota House and Senate both approved a $2.6 billion package to fund infrastructure projects around the state Monday, just hours before the 2023 session was set to adjourn at midnight.
The package is a mixture of general obligation bonds and cash from the state's $17.5 billion surplus. State State Rep. Dean Urdahl, of Acton Township, is the ranking Republican on capital investment and played an integral role in negotiations. Urdahl said the finished product emphasized what he classified as core infrastructure projects, namely roads and bridges, clean water, wastewater and flood mitigation.
It was the first bonding bill to receive full legislative approval since 2020 and Urdahl said demand was building with requests far exceeding the total appropriated Monday.
"Deferred maintenance of state infrastructure does not make issues go away; they compound and end up costing taxpayers more in the long run," Urdahl said. "It is our responsibility to maintain property we own as taxpayers and this bill helps us do that. Also, while I would have preferred more of the state surplus be returned to the taxpayers, funding these projects throughout the state is another way people can indirectly benefit."
In total, the larger of the bills (H.F. 669) includes $1.3 billion from the proceeds of general obligation bonds, $219 million from the Transportation Fund and nearly $225 million from the General Fund. A second cash bill (H.F. 670) provides $850.7 million in General Fund spending.
Funding the package appropriates for projects in Urdahl's District 16A includes:
- $1 million for Litchfield Wellness Center
- $2.25 million for restoring buildings in downtown Litchfield
- $4 million for Lake Lillian wastewater project
- $5 million for First District-related wastewater treatment in Litchfield
Urdahl indicated the package provides $381 million to the Public Facilities Authority for water and wastewater projects, $85 million for local/township roads and $67 million for local bridges.
Urdahl said a key to striking a deal on capital investment hinged on Democrat majorities in the House and Senate agreeing to provide $300 million more for nursing homes to help stem a crisis in the long-term care industry. Coming to terms on that funding helped generate Republican support to gain the requisite supermajority for passage of the bonding portion, Urdahl said.
"We needed to provide more funding for nursing homes than the majorities were proposing for the state's next two-year budget," Urdahl said. "It's good that, in the end, we were able to do more to help them address their critical needs."
The package now is in the hands of the governor for his anticipated enactment as part of a complete new two-year state budget approved by the Legislature in recent days.