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$496M State Construction Bill Passes House

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota House on Monday approved borrowing $496 million for statewide construction, including work on campus buildings, bridges and roads, flood mitigation and renovations to the state Capitol building.

The House easily passed the bill 99-32, and the Senate was scheduled to vote on the legislation later Monday.

The bill evolved from numerous borrowing proposals reworked throughout the session, and includes more money for state college buildings, flood prevention and transportation projects than earlier versions. It provides less for renovations at the state Capitol — $44 million down from $221 million once put forward for a full-scale restoration. Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, the bill’s sponsor, said it had support from both parties and in both chambers.

The University of Minnesota would see $64 million under the bill, and $132 million would go to renovations and additions within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

Flood prevention projects, which weren’t included in the initial House proposal, will get $30 million, and the bill provides $49 million for road and bridge work, as well as other transportation projects. The Hormel Institute in Austin would get $13.5 million, more than any other local development project.

But funding for several local projects has been cut. The measure provides no money for a St. Paul Saints baseball park and nothing for civic center expansions in Mankato, St. Cloud and the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.

Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, voted for the bill but lamented the lack of money for community projects.

“The business community engaged on this bill,” Hausman said. “They compared us to cities across the nation. We have given them exactly zero for all that work. We missed an opportunity to build strong regional centers in partnership with those cities.”

Instead of funding specific local projects, the bill would create a $50 million fund to be handled by the state Department of Employment and Economic Development. Communities can apply for grants for projects.

Some lawmakers were opposed to asking taxpayers to foot the bill for that.

“The projects in here can wait but the debt we’re foisting onto the backs of Minnesotans is crushing,” said Rep. Mark Buesgens, R-Jordan.

The House’s $221 million bonding bill for a Capitol restoration failed by one vote last month. Many Democrats said during that debate that they opposed funding the Capitol overhaul at the expense of other projects.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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