ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — House Republicans proposed a $280 million borrowing package for Minnesota construction projects Monday, placing an emphasis on refurbishing state college buildings, roads and bridges but falling far short of the amount Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton proposed spending.
Along with the $280 million list of projects, the House GOP proposed a separate bill to borrow $220 million for restoration of the crumbling Capitol building. But even those two proposals combined add up to considerably less than Dayton’s $775 million bonding proposal; and Dayton proposes spending far less on the Capitol, in favor of more money for local building projects around the state.
Dayton has pitched his bonding proposal as a jobs bill, repeatedly touting an estimate that the projects combined would create more than 21,000 jobs. But most of those would be temporary construction jobs, and the House Republican who assembled the GOP bill said his emphasis was instead on creating permanent jobs.
“I view what happens after the jobs that were created to build or repair, what jobs are put in place permanently,” said Rep. Larry Howes of Walker. He cited as an example the $9 million in his plan allotted to build a major addition to the Hormel Institute, a research facility in Austin.
“After it’s built, 60 people will work there making about 60 grand a piece. That’s a jobs bill,” Howes said. Dayton’s bonding proposal suggests $13.5 million for the facility.
The contrast between Dayton’s bonding bill rollout, and that of House Republicans, is telling in itself. Dayton’s proposal is a prominent piece of a larger jobs proposal he has repeatedly touted in press conferences and speeches, including a prominent mention in his State of the State address last month.
House Republicans, meanwhile, posted their bill online Monday night with no fanfare and have stressed a belief that cutting taxes and regulations is a more effective way to create permanent jobs than capitalizing on state indebtedness.
“The governor’s bonding proposal would put thousands of Minnesotans to work, but based on the size of their proposal, thousands would be left on the bench,” Katharine Tinucci, Dayton’s spokeswoman, wrote in an email.
Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, is putting together his chamber’s version of the bonding bill. He said it would be ready late this week or early next and would include more for local projects than House Republicans proposed. He also said he believed $220 million for the Capitol renovation was far too high, a comment echoed by several Democrats.
The House GOP proposal does not include funding for a number of local projects sought by Dayton, including civic centers in Mankato and Rochester. It does include bonds for the St. Cloud Civic Center and a new St. Paul Saints ballpark in downtown St. Paul, but at lower levels than those proposed by Dayton.
In all, Dayton wants $165 million in local projects — from money for a reconstruction of Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis to a media center for Lakeland Public Television in Bemidji to a regional wellness center in Wadena. Republicans granted none of those requests.
While Republicans did fulfill more bonding requests for projects on public college and university campuses, they came in lower than Dayton on those requests too. Dayton also proposed nearly twice as much for road and bridge improvements around the state.
“It underfunds just about everything,” said House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, who said Democrats were not consulted as the bill was assembled. Bonding bills require a three-fifths majority to pass the House and Senate, meaning Republicans need some Democratic support to pass this one.
“I think they’re going to have a hard time getting Democratic votes,” Thissen said. Howes said if that’s the case, House Republicans would likely give up on the bill altogether.
Here are some highlights of building and construction projects included in the Minnesota House Republican’s $280 million bonding proposal unveiled Tuesday. The numbers in parentheses are the amount Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton proposed for the same projects. House Republicans also proposed $220 million in bonding to renovate the State Capitol:
— University of Minnesota system building and renovation projects: $39 million (Dayton proposed $78 million)
— Minnesota State Colleges and Universities campus projects: $56 million (Dayton proposed $112 million)
— Department of Natural Resources projects: $21 million (Dayton proposed $56 million)
— Minnesota Zoo dolphin tank renovation: $5 million (Dayton proposed $7 million)
— Construction of a State Emergency Operations Center in Arden Hills: $2 million (Dayton proposed $26 million)
— Transportation projects including local bridge replacements, local road improvements, transit and airport infrastructure: $39 million (Dayton proposed $74 million)
— Department of Corrections projects: $14 million (Dayton proposed $54 million)
— Local projects to boost employment and economic development in communities statewide: $46 million (Dayton proposed $165 million)
— Minnesota Historical Society projects: $3 million (Dayton proposed $3 million as well)
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