Republican House passes bonding bill

By T.W. BUDIG – ECM Capitol reporter

ST. PAUL – The Republican House Monday passed a $496 million bonding bill containing a number of projects.

House Capital Investment Chairman Larry Howes, R-Walker, last week indicated the Dayton Administration wanted to close the higher education bonding disparity gap in an earlier version of the bonding bill between the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU).

But MnSCU still holds an advantage in the bonding bill, gaining about $132 million in bonding to the university’s $64 million.

The Minnesota Zoo captures $4 million in the House Republican bonding bill – one zoo official waved a rusty-looking paint chip from the salt-water dolphin tank to illustrate its rough condition and Gov. Mark Dayton slated $7 million for the zoo in his bonding bill – while State Capitol restoration gained $44 million.

Originally, Howes was proposing a much higher funding amount for the State Capitol renovations.

One big gainer in the reworked Republican bonding bill is the Camp Ripley state education complex addition design and construction.

Although funding was entirely missing in the earlier bill, the House Republican bill matches Dayton’s proposed $19.5 million bonding amount.

There were unsuccessful attempts during House floor debate to siphon money off the Camp Ripley project, but those failed.

"I think it’s a good bill," said Howes, defending the Camp Ripley funding.

Another area facility, the National Sports Center in Blaine, gained $375,000 for building improvements.

But some lawmakers lamented perceived omissions in the bill.

Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, styled the $496 million bonding bill "the best under the circumstances." Still, Simon expressed unhappiness over the lack of funding in the bill for the Southwest Corridor Light Rail Transit Line.

Dayton, in his bill, slated $25 million for the project. The House Republican bill contains none.

"I think we have a decision to make," said Simon, saying lawmakers need to decide on what kind of metro area the state wants.

The transit line, Simon noted, is one of just a dozen projects on the federal government’s transit New Start list.

Federal to state funding ratio for the project would be at 9-to-1, he noted.

"I don’t think we can continue to pave our way out of the problem," said Simon of urban growth.

Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, lamented a lack of funding for infrastructure improvements at the Minneapolis Veterans Home.

Howes indicated the bonding bill took some doing to get done.

"There are days when I felt like a ping pong ball," joked Howes of working out the bonding bill.

The bill passed the Republican House on a 99-to-32 vote.