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Senate Pulls Wraps Off $1.1B Construction Plan

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO/AP) – The Minnesota Senate’s proposal for publicly backed construction projects totals more than $1.1 billion in combined borrowing and cash-financed projects.

The construction bill costs more than the Vikings stadium, and it’s almost as controversial. It is so far reaching, it could touch almost every place in the state, if it passes.

The billion-dollar public works bill includes hundreds of projects large and small — from waste water treatment plants to roads and bridges, some of which date back to statehood.

“A lot of our communities are getting up to a 100, 150 years old. And stuff doesn’t last forever, you know,” said Sen. Leroy Stumpf, D-Plummer.

The list includes high-priority items like an overhaul at St. Peter Security Hospital, Civic Center renovations in Rochester, Mankato and St. Cloud.

Plus, hundreds of millions for renovation and construction at the University of Minnesota and the State College and University systems.

The bill sets aside $160 million in cash for a massive state Capitol renovation. But only $20 million for the Lewis and Clark water pipeline project in Luverne and Worthington.

Republicans say the bill is stuffed with extravagant, unnecessary items, like the Spoonbridge and Cherry at the Walker Art Sculpture Garden, snowmaking equipment at Spirit Mountain and reconstruction of Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis.

The proposal released Monday calls for borrowing of $846 million and about $200 million in cash from the state’s surplus.

“All of the extra things we have in the bonding bill that the Democrats put out? It’s all nice stuff but we have to talk about priorities,” said Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes.

Gov. Mark Dayton chided Republicans, urging them to stick to public policy, not politics.

“Rather than face the issues, they want to just pick at these little odds and ends,” he said. “It’s irresponsible.”

Democrats control the House, the Senate and the Governor’s office so they don’t normally need Republican votes for anything — except this public works bill, which will require a super majority of the legislature, including the GOP.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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