Bonding bill in question
ST. PAUL - The future of a public works borrowing bill to fund state Capitol work, roads and bridges and other projects including Red Wing's river walk and Sheldon Theatre renovations is in question after it failed in the Minnesota House.
Representatives voted 76-56 Friday on a bill to sell bonds to fund public works projects, five votes short of the 81 needed to pass.
"This is nothing short of tragic," bill author Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, said after the vote. But even with only three days left in the session the bill could resurface.
The $800 million bonding bill would fund projects such as state Capitol renovations, repairs at colleges and state parks and local bridge and road projects. The $109 million Capitol provision is the largest single item in the bill.
Republicans said they did not want to vote on the bill before the state budget is set. Rep. Tim Kelly was among those who voted no.
"We need to get our priorities straight," House Minority Leader Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said.
"Why we would at this time borrow another $800 million to spend more money, before doing our budget work, is perplexing," Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, said.
Various budget bills have begun to be heard by the House and Senate, but most major pieces remain to be debated.
Southwestern Minnesota Republicans said they were upset because aid to their area affected by storms last month was in the bonding bill and would have been more likely to pass on its own.
"I truly hope the Democrats aren't going to play politics with an act of God," Rep. Joe Schomacker, R-Luverne, said before the vote.
Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, also worried the disaster relief could be in danger as part of the bonding bill.
"Democrats are holding this funding hostage because we did not support $800 million in additional state borrowing," Hamilton said. "We have always helped our disaster victims during their time of crisis, and I can only hope the Democrats will do the right thing and bring this bill forward in the next few days."
Hausman argued that all the projects in the bill are important.
"Why is one community and its need more noble than anyone else's?" she asked.
Hausman told reporters after the vote that the bonding bill is finished for the year. However, Gov. Mark Dayton and leaders of the Democratic-controlled House and Senate could bring the bill up for debate again.
Republicans have said they could accept a bonding bill that includes Capitol work and any disaster funding, but not other projects.
Hausman said she thinks a Capitol-only funding bill will not come up this year, though without it repairs will be delayed, she said.
"In today's highly partisan political atmosphere, the bonding bill is one example where legislators can work together for their communities and the good of the state," Hausman said. "A great disservice was done today by those who wanted to make a political point."
She said the bill would have made a difference in communities throughout Minnesota.
"I couldn't have asked the people of Minnesota for more help," Hausman said, relaying letters, calls and emails from people throughout the state asking for projects to be included. "We're all in this together."
Hausman said the bill was an agreement among the Senate, House and governor's office.
Hausman said at least eight Republicans promised votes, though she would not say who. Dean said no GOP members promised to vote for the bill. Three Republicans did join Democrats in the vote.