Dayton wants his final bonding bill to be a big one

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, left, and Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans talked about Gov. Dayton’s $1.5 billion bonding proposal during a state Capitol news conference. Tim Pugmire | MPR News

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton is proposing a $1.5 billion package of public works construction projects for his final legislative session.

The bonding bill recommendation released Tuesday includes $542 million for projects at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State campuses. The bulk of the package, $998 million, is divided among state building repair, affordable housing, water infrastructure upgrades and long list of local projects.

“It’s a robust bonding bill,” said Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans.

Frans announced the proposal during a state Capitol news conference that Dayton was unable to attend due to a bad cold. Frans said the public works package would make “urgent investments” and create an estimated 22,950 construction jobs.

Frans also stressed that the proposal falls well within the state’s statutory debt guidelines.

“The governor’s proposal is a smart investment in Minnesota’s future and reduces a backlog of deferred maintenance before the cost of these urgently-needed projects escalates even further,” Frans said.

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler and Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra helped make the case for the governor’s bonding plan.

Kaler said $250 million of the $299 million designated for the U of M would be help repair and remodel aging buildings.

“On our Twin Cities campus alone, more than 50 percent of our facilities are 50 years old or older,” Kaler said. “They need to be renewed so that our students can learn in spaces that best prepare them for Minnesota’s 21st century workforce.”

The U of M bonding list also includes renovation work for Pillsbury Hall and the Glensheen mansion.

The Minnesota State designation of $243 million is also heavy on building repairs.

“The facilities on our 54 campus all across the state allow us to deliver on our compact with the citizens of Minnesota,” Malhotra said.

The governor’s recommendations also include a $30 million project at Historic Fort Snelling, a $50 million bus garage for the Metropolitan Council and $21 million for Minnesota Zoo upgrades.

Republicans in the Minnesota House and Senate are not expected to back a bonding bill as large as Dayton’s proposal. GOP Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said a bonding bill would need to be “significantly less” than a billion dollars.

“I want to be careful that we don’t spend too much money,” Gazelka said. “That’s always been where I’m addressing things from.”

The chair of the House Capitol investment Committee, Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, also raised concerns about the cost. Urdahl noted that lawmakers just passed a $1 billion bonding bill last year.

“It will be an uphill battle to secure legislative support for a proposal that spends $600 million more than we have planned for in the budget forecast,” Urdahl said.