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Lawmakers OK $370 million capital investment plan

Rep. Paul Torkelson and Rep. Alice Hausman share a light moment before discussion of the bonding bill during Friday’s special session. Photo by Andrew VonBank
Rep. Paul Torkelson and Rep. Alice Hausman share a light moment before discussion of the bonding bill during Friday’s special session. Photo by Andrew VonBank

The House and Senate passed a more than $370 million bonding proposal early Saturday morning that would fund upgrades at a pair of food safety labs, flood mitigation and disaster relief projects and help complete renovations to the State Capitol that are in full swing.

Sponsored by Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) and Sen. LeRoy Stumpf (DLF-Plummer), the House passed HF2 96-25; the Senate 48-18. The bill now awaits Gov. Mark Dayton's signature.

The $373.4 million proposal is more than three times as large as a bonding bill the Senate passed in the waning hours of the regular session last month; however, the House did not vote on that bill before adjourning May 18. It features roughly $163 million in general-obligation borrowing and $140 million in trunk highway bonding for unspecified road projects across the state.

MORE: View the full list of proposed bonding projects

Major projects that would be funded by the bill include $33 million to complete the ongoing State Capitol restoration project, $18 million toward the replacement of a University of Minnesota veterinary isolation facility and more than $5 million for highway-rail grade separation projects.

“This bill for this year is about the right size,” said Torkelson, who chairs the House Capital Investment Committee. He said he anticipates a larger bonding bill in 2016 that includes a broader range of items, including funds for asset management projects left out of this year’s bill.

Bonding bills require a 60 percent supermajority to pass and often include projects that span the state to build the necessary broad support from lawmakers. HF2 is no different, featuring measures that would spend bond proceeds to fund projects from $650,000 for a bridge over Minnehaha Creek at the Minneapolis Veterans Home to $50,000 for window replacements at a potato inspection facility in East Grand Forks.

Other key items included in the bill would appropriate:

  • $32.8 million to the Department of Transportation for local road and bridge projects;
  • $31.9 million to Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system for facility improvements;
  • $23.6 million to the Department of Natural Resources for flood hazard mitigation projects;
  • roughly $21 million for disaster relief for flood damages related to major storms in 2014;
  • $8.5 million for the University of Minnesota's Willmar-based poultry testing lab; and
  • $1.2 million for replacement of the food processing facility at the Northeast Regional Corrections Center in Saginaw.

Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL-St. Paul) said lawmakers should have considered a larger bonding bill this year with interest rates still low and construction costs expected to rise. But she praised the bill for making needed investments across the state.

“I wish we’d done more,” she said, “but this does get some things off the table.” 

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