ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The Minnesota Senate Wednesday unveiled a $496 million measure to fund construction projects around the state, setting off a parade of unhappy lawmakers whose projects didn’t make the cut.
Among them the projects left behind: No money for a St Paul Saints stadium, only $25 million for a massive State Capitol renovation that could stop the $250 million overhaul in its tracks and nothing for the top three projects in Minneapolis.
“Nicollet Mall reconstruction? A big fat zero,” said a dsappointed Sen. Linda Higgins, (DFL) Minneapolis. “The sculpture garden, that big parks board proposal? Big fat zero. The light rail line to the southwest corridor? Big fat zero.”
The light rail to the western suburbs is a top priority of businesses from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie, where the line would run.
But Republican leaders say those chambers of commerce didn’t make their case, and GOP lawmakers have serious concerns about whether light rail is necessary or cost effective.
“There’s a lot of policy issues related to extending light rail wherever that might be,” said Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, (R) Rochester. “If we had gotten a signal from the Transportation Committee that this is the future, this is where we want transportation to develop in Minnesota then i think we would have considered it with more vigor.”
The bill includes a $32 million civic center expansion for Rochester and a $10 million expansion for St. Cloud, but nothing for Mankato’s Civic Center.
Mankato City Council President Mike Laven issued a statement, calling the exclusion of his city’s project at the expense of St. Cloud and Rochester “unfair.”
“Funding for the civic center expansion is critical to securing the future of the MSU hockey program and the economic growth of the Greater Mankato region,” said Laven.
The Senate bill puts a stronger emphasis on colleges and universities.
Overall, said Senjem, it’s a compromise.
“Let’s not forget its about MNSCU. It’s about the University of Minnesota. It’s about roads and bridges. It’s about all those elements that are important to a lot of people.”
The single largest item left off the Senate list: The State Capitol itself.
The Capitol is literally falling apart and needs $250 million for restoration so extensive that the Governor and legislature must move out for several years.
Without at least $62 million in funding, work on the project could stop this summer.