State Senate rolls out $1.1 billion public works projects proposal

The Minnesota Senate now has a bonding bill proposal to compete with earlier plans from the House and Gov. Mark Dayton.

Senate Democrats released a $1.1 billion package of public construction projects today that they want to fund using a combination of $846 million in borrowing and $200 million cash from the budget surplus.

Most of the projects are on college campuses throughout the state. The list also includes the final piece of the state Capitol renovation, improvements to the state security hospital in St. Peter, Minnesota, regional civic centers and a section of the Lewis and Clark water pipeline project in southwest Minnesota.

Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, chair of the Senate Capital Investment Committee, said he thinks the list of projects strikes a “delicate balance.”

“We want to do a lot of the basic kinds of things, infrastructure things,” Stumpf said. “Things like asset preservation, the transportation needs that drive and housing, which is really critical out there.”

Democrats need some Republican votes to reach the three-fifths majority required to pass a bonding bill.

A group of GOP lawmakers held a news conference to criticize the DFL approach to bonding.

Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, said Democrats are not focusing on the correct priorities. He said one of those priorities should be pothole repair.

“Projects should have a regional, statewide impact and positively impact the lives of every Minnesotan,” Chamberlain said.

Stumpf’s committee is expected to approve the separate bonding and cash bills on Tuesday.

The House, which is also taking a two-bill approach, has yet to vote on either measure.