House bonding bill surpasses governor’s

by T.W. Budig

ECM Capitol reporter

The 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.

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 and local incentives that could help it muster the super majority — a threshold that must include eight Republican votes — that’s needed to pass the House. 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.

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 Kelley Farm.

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

The money would be used to renovate and expand the farm’s visitor center, add several outbuildings and complete other improvements.

The visitor center is about 35 years old and would triple in size under the plan, according to Bob Quist, Kelley Farm site manager. Among the outbuildings that would be added are a four-season picnic shelter, a maintenance building and a livestock building.

Also in the House bonding proposal is 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 toward 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.