House bonding chair looks ahead after final night protest

The Minnesota House passed a pared-down bonding bill in the closing hours of the 2013 session, but the chair of the Capital Investment Committee removed her name as an author and refused to vote in protest.

Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, said she strongly objected to the $156 million package of public construction projects that passed, 121-10.

“There’s no way I could author what we did that last night,” Hausman said. “To me, that was just flat out irresponsible.”

Hausman had worked for months crafting a comprehensive $800 million bonding bill that failed to reach the 60 percent super majority needed for passage when it was put to a vote last Friday. Only three Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the bill, when at least eight GOP votes were needed.

The smaller bonding bill included $109 million for the next phase of renovation work on the deteriorating State Capitol building. But there was also money for flood mitigation projects and improvements to the Minneapolis Veterans Home. Hausman said she could have supported the Capitol project alone. But she didn’t like the addition of other projects in order to gain Republican votes.

“The thing that has always troubled me is those who want to vote just for their stuff and not for everyone else’s,” she said. “Even though they voted no for everything else, we still came back to help them.”

Hausman said she was particularly disappointed that no higher education or housing projects made it into the bill. Next session’s bonding bill, she predicted, will now easily top $1 billion to accomodate the growing backlog of projects. But Hausman is already wondering about the prospects for such a bill.

“If they wouldn’t vote for an $800 million bill, which was too big, who of the Republicans will vote for a bill well over $1 billion?”

Still, Hausman stressed that it is not in her nature to give up. She said she’ll turn to community organizations throughout the state in the coming months to help educate lawmakers about the importance of specific public infrastructure projects.