It appears that legislative leaders have agreed on a $496 million public works bonding bill.
The Minnesota House was scheduled to take the bill up tonight, but sponsors yanked it at the last minute. Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, said he pulled the bill after Gov. Dayton threatened to veto it. He said the governor was concerned about the disparity in spending between the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.
"Staff said he'd veto the bill if I didn't make MnSCU and the U of M closer," Howes said. "They said MnSCU could be a little bit larger but it has to be closer than what it is now."
The bill spends $144 million for MnSCU campuses across the state compareed to $54 million for the University. Howes said he expected to scale back funding for flood mitigation and MnSCU to make up the difference.
He insisted the bonding bill will remain at $496 million, a figure the four legislative leaders and Capital Investment experts agreed upon.
The deal comes after DFL House members repeatedly criticized Republicans for putting forward a bill that didn't spend enough and didn't have DFL input.
Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, said she's pleased with the changes. She said Democrats made the decision to support the bill even if it didn't meet their initial expectations. She said a smaller bill is better than no bill at all.
"To have a year with zero means next year you have a bigger backlog than ever," Hausman said. "We thought this was the last week of session and at this point it became necessary to become a realist."
The bill spends $30 million for flood mitigation, $44 million to renovate the State Capitol, $30 million for local bridge replacement and rehabilitation, $5 million to start work on a new wing to the Sex Offender Treatment Center in St. Peter.
There is no funding for Southwest Light Rail Corridor, a new ballpark for the St. Paul Saints, the St. Cloud Civic Center, the Mayo Civic Center Expansion and the Mankato Civic Center. But the bill includes $55 million for an economic development grant program that could fund some of those projects.
Howes said the program would allow the Department of Employment and Economic Development to spend money on "four star projects" around the state. He warned, however, that the funding couldn't support all of the projects being pushed by regional communities.
"If anybody did 4th grade arithmetic, $55 million would not do all of those wonderful things that some people would like to do," he said.
Howes also said he was disappointed that his plan to spend $221 million to renovate the State Capitol was trimmed back. But he characterized it as a good start.
"We all shoot for the stars and sometimes we land on the moon," Howes said. "It gets the project going."
The House is expected to vote on the bonding bill before the Vikings bill on Monday.
Here's the initial spreadsheet released by House Republicans.