The top Democrat in the Minnesota Senate is raising doubts about whether a big bonding bill is needed this session.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said today that he would be surprised if the Legislature passes more than a $200 million package of public construction projects. That runs counter to DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, who has said he plans to propose at least $850 million of bonding this year.

Bakk said he thinks $150 million is more likely. But he said the bonding number could grow larger as part of a transportation funding plan.

“I actually am somebody that actually supports bonding for transportation,” Bakk said. “I just think that the taxpayers right now, this year, shouldn’t have to pay for the cost of building a bridge that is going to be used by people for decades. The right public policy is to spread the cost of that out.”

Bakk said for now, he has instructed Senate committees to focus on budget matters rather than bonding projects.

On transportation funding, Bakk said a bill needs to be passed this year or the issue will likely be delayed until 2017.

He said the construction on the state Capitol will result in an abbreviated session in 2016.

Good morning!

In Minnesota

Gov. Mark Dayton’s new budget calls for more Department of Human Services funding to help DHS cover its share of MNsure’s expenses. Dayton wants lawmakers to allocate an additional $11.6 million to the department. (MPR News)

Officials with the Minnesota Department of Human Services are eliminating 43 jobs, as they try to correct an ongoing shortfall in their current budget. (MPR News)

How to spend a billion dollar surplus. (MinnPost)

Auto dealers are fighting an attempt to allow Sunday auto sales. (Star Tribune)

The Minnesota Lottery narrowly escaped being reined in last session, and lawmakers are pushing again this year to stop the games’ expansion into online and other venues. (Pioneer Press)

The state is postponing the launch of a program that would require boaters to pass a training course to legally pull a boat on a trailer — an effort to fight aquatic invasive species. Lawmakers are trying to kill the law. (Star Tribune)

The Alliance for a Better Minnesota, a liberal political group, said its political tracker was improperly kicked out of a public legislative meeting in Burnsville organized by Rep. Steve Drazkowski, a Republican from Mazeppa. (Star Tribune)

National Politics

Republicans would really, really like Sen. Elizabeth Warren to challenge Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary. (New York Times)

President Barack Obama’s attorney general nominee came to Capitol Hill with one overriding message Wednesday: “I will be Loretta Lynch.” Translation: She won’t be Eric Holder. (Politico)

Minnesota’s senators used the hearing to ask Lynch about their pet concerns. (MPR News)

Sarah Palin’s speech at an Iowa gathering of potential presidential contenders seems to have lost her most of her remaining fans within the GOP. (Washington Post)

Senate Democrats sound increasingly likely to prevent the House’s Homeland Security funding bill from even coming to the Senate floor for debate, which would mark their second filibuster of the young Congress. (Politico)

How effective were the millions spent by Republicans last year against 7th District Rep. Collin Peterson? (Smart Politics)

 

WASHINGTON – There weren’t a lot of fireworks at the Senate confirmation hearing of Loretta Lynch to be the next U.S. Attorney General and certainly none from Minnesota’s two Democratic Senators, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken.

The pair, who both sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee, limited their questioning of Lynch to areas of concern each has long voiced.

Klobuchar emphasized her own professional roots as a prosecutor with Lynch, who’s currently the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, asking Lynch about the relationship between federal and local prosecutors and federal-state cooperation to combat sex trafficking, drug abuse and Islamic extremism.

Lynch focused her responses on the close work she’s engaged in with local prosecutors in New York and her interest in all of those issues.

Franken asked Lynch about mental health, privacy law and the Department of Justice’s roles in reviewing Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner.

As his 10 minutes of questioning expired, Franken indicated his support for Lynch’s nomination saying, “OK, then I’ll probably vote for you,” and drawing laughs from the audience.