With only four days left in the legislative session, lawmakers have a number of items to try to reach agreement on including bonding, a supplemental budget, taxes, transportation, and other issues before 12:01 a.m. on May 23.
HF622 was approved Wednesday by both the House Capital Investment and House Ways and Means committees and heads to the House floor for discussion.
The proposal would authorize roughly $800 million in general-obligation borrowing repaid by state tax revenues, and another $70 million in trunk highway bonding. It includes $227 million for local road and bridge projects, $137 million for the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, and $130 million for water and sewer projects.
For Thursday’s Floor debate, the body’s typical 24-hour pre-file rule for proposed amendments will not be in effect due to the waiver of House rules in order to expedite the bill’s path, meaning members will be able to offer amendments on the fly.
“It’s easy to put large numbers in a large bill,” said Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska), the bill sponsor and chair of the House bonding committee. “That’s not the case here. We have a reasonably sized bill.”
Whether the bill has enough votes to pass the House, however, appears to be in question. Bonding bills require a 60 percent supermajority to pass either legislative body, and while Torkelson said Wednesday that the $800 million figure represented “true compromise,” the proposal drew no DFL support on the House Capital Investment Committee and further criticism from members on the ways and means committee.
House Democrats criticized the Republican plan as regionally- and politically-biased, focusing on Republican and rural districts at the expense of the metro area.
DFL lawmakers also said the bill doesn’t offer enough support to the state’s universities and colleges for their capital needs, underfunds asset preservation projects across the state, and neglects borrowing for badly-needed housing initiatives. “Crumbling infrastructure does not stop crumbling because we pretend it’s not there,” Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, said.
Bonding bills are “immensely challenging” to assemble, Torkelson said in defending the bill. Nearly $5.3 billion in capital investment requests were submitted by state agencies and local governments. Including them all was clearly not an option, he said.
“It is not surprising we had to leave some things out of the bill,” he said.
Governor Dayton met privately on Wednesday with House and Senate leaders, but the negotiations broke up quickly with no deals in sight.
Despite this week's exchange of offers on transportation funding, negotiators have set that issue aside to focus instead on taxes, bonding and how to spend the state's $900 million budget surplus.
But Dayton made it clear that he won’t sign a tax bill this year without a budget bill that includes a list of must-haves he issued to leaders this week. They include:
- $100 million in for broadband infrastructure
- $100 million for racial equity proposals
- $25 million for a pilot preschool proposal
- $21 million for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system
- $19 million for the Department of Human Services
- $13 million for the Department of Corrections
- $11 million for the University of Minnesota medical school
- $6 million for pensions for judges
“I reiterated that I would not sign a tax bill without a supplemental budget bill that I find acceptable,” Dayton said after a brief, 15 minute meeting of leaders broke on Wednesday. “It’s not about getting what I want it’s about getting what Minnesota needs. I’ll stand on that.”
The three bills that passed out of Ways and Means committee earlier this week that includes labor agreements for MnSCU faculty, staff, and administrators is scheduled to be heard on the House floor for Friday.