House Democrats recommend a larger bonding bill than the governor’s

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporterThe Democratic-controlled House released an $800 million bonding bill Tuesday (April 9) that is  sprinkled with area  projects.“I will say, you know how to write a bonding bill,” Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, told House Capital Investment Chairwoman Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul.

House Capital Investment Chairwoman Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, counts another reason off in committee. (Photo by T.W. Budig) Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, studies the House bonding bill. (Photo by T.W. Budig) Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, doesn't plan to vote for a bonding bill. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

House Capital Investment Chairwoman Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, counts another reason off in committee. (Photo by T.W. Budig) 

The House bill includes a number of larger bonding projects found in Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s bonding bill, such as $109 million for State Capitol renovation.

“Next year, $94 million (more) and we’re done,” Hausman said of completing the long-delayed renovation.

Hausman’s bill also contains sweeteners that could help it muster the super majority — a threshold that must include eight Republican votes — that’s needed to pass the House.

The bill has local incentives.

These include up to $2 million for the Camp Ripley/Veterans State Trail, $7 million for Old Cedar Avenue Bridge renovation in Bloomington and $5 million for the Springbrook Nature Center in Fridley.

Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, studies the House bonding bill. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, studies the House bonding bill. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

There’s some $3 million for the National Sports Center in Blaine, $7 million for the Chatfield Center for the Arts — a project Davids champions — $10 million for the St. Cloud Civic Center and about $10 million for the Oliver Kelly Farm.

“We’ve been trying to do this forever,” Hausman said of assisting the historical farm, located in Elk River.

Additionally, there’s dam-removal funding for the Elm Creek Dam near West River Road in the City of Champlin, a dam built in 1936 as a Great Depression works program.

The House bonding bill is less generous with the Minnesota Zoo than the governor’s, recommending about $5 million for asset preservation and infrastructure  .

Hausman hopes to be more generous with the zoo next year.

In another gesture towards Anoka County, the House bill includes local road improvement funding for final design, land acquisition and construction of the Highway 10/Armstrong Boulevard intersection in the City of Ramsey.

The Lino Lakes Correctional Facility is slated $3 million for additional buildings for programs and bed space. But while Dayton’s bonding proposal also includes funding for Shakopee Women’s Prison and St. Cloud Prison, the House bill does not.

Other features of the House bill include $50 million to Metropolitan Council for transit improvements, grant money for local government doing work on the Bottineau, Red Rock, Rush Line, and Southwest transit corridors.

Transit development is critical in the metro, Hausman argued, a bustling region accounting for two-thirds of the state’s gross domestic product.

The metro must embrace the “new economy,” one in which younger workers look to transit, she said.

One major difference between Dayton and the House in higher education is $47 million the House includes to construct a new James Ford Bell Natural History Museum on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.

The most controversial part of the House bonding bill, Hausman said, may be Veterans Affairs funding.

While Dayton includes $54 million for a skilled nursing facility at the Minneapolis Veterans Home, the House includes just $5 million in asset preservation.

If previous Minneapolis Veterans Home bonding would be added, the extra $54 million would account for more than $100 million in bonding.

“So we would have $100 million at one location,” she said.

There are a number of bills related to the development of veterans homes around the state, she said.

She suggested lawmakers come together to discuss veterans housing.

Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, doesn't plan to vote for a bonding bill. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, doesn’t plan to vote for a bonding bill. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, said a bonding bill that includes trails funding but little for veterans fuels a public perception the state isn’t doing enough for veterans.

Dettmer supports the Minneapolis Veterans Home funding, and encourages the state to assist local housing facilities to become accredited veterans homes.

Dettmer will not support a bonding bill this year, he said.

The House bonding bill repeals state law that had the Department of Employment and Economic Development making bonding decisions.

It was a mistake to have given up that authority, Hausman said.

Although Davids congratulated Hausman on a having a pretty good bill, Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, said the House Republican Caucus’ position is to address the state budget before dealing with bonding.

Dean indicated that he was not personally opposed to having a bonding bill this year.

But he spoke of finding value.

Lawmakers can’t approach a bonding bill with their eyes solely on their projects, Hausman said.

The entrance to the Oliver Kelley Farm in Elk River.

The entrance to the Oliver Kelley Farm in Elk River.

Bonding bills don’t work that way, she said.

“Everyone has to work to pass this bill,” Hausman said.

The House Capital Investment Committee is expected to take testimony and amendments on its bonding bill this week.

Davids slammed Dayton’s $750 million bonding effort as unpassable.

Tim Budig can be reached at tim.budig@ecm-inc.com.

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