With no bonding bill, UMN infrastructure projects left in limbo

The Minnesota Legislature failed to pass a capital investment bill early Saturday morning before adjourning.

Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul on Friday, June 13th. ( Minnesota Daily / Jasmin Kemp)

Jasmin Kemp

Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul on Friday, June 13th. ( Minnesota Daily / Jasmin Kemp)

Madeline Deninger

The Minnesota Legislature adjourned before it could pass a key statewide infrastructure bill, leaving the funding for University of Minnesota projects up in the air. 

The state Senate voted to adjourn early Saturday morning after convening for a special session June 12. Without the Senate in session, the House had no choice but to also adjourn. Lawmakers were unable to come to an agreement on a number of key issues, including an infrastructure, or bonding, bill and police reform measures. 

The University requested $317.2 million in a bonding bill for various infrastructure projects, across the campus system. Such renovations included replacement of the Child Development Building and renovation of the A.B. Anderson Hall on the Duluth campus.

While lawmakers had agreed to convene for a special session last month, the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked renewed conversations about police reform that became a legislative priority over the last week. 

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, initially said the special session would not last longer than a week. Gazelka said lawmakers needed a chance to work out issues and convene at a later time. 

“I’d rather set the table again, come to the place where we agree on the things we agree, sign it so that nobody can say ‘that’s not what we said’ and get it done on a different day,” he said on the Senate floor Saturday morning. 

Senate Democrats opposed the measure and urged lawmakers to work toward an agreement. Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, introduced an amendment to adjourn on Monday, but it failed in the Republican-controlled chamber. 

“We could still get something done. And yet an arbitrary deadline was set on this special session to end over five hours ago,” Kent said on the Senate floor. 

At the end of the regular session last month, the House failed to pass a $2 billion bill, while the Senate failed to pass a $1 billion bill. 

At the time, Senate lawmakers called for a bigger bonding bill, which would have included more money for the University. 

Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester, authored an amended bonding bill during the special session, which totaled around $1.1 billion. The bill included $95 million for the University, including around $66 million in Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement funding. 

HEAPR funding will cover various maintenance projects on all five system campuses. Some lawmakers have pointed to HEAPR projects’ importance during the COVID-19 pandemic because of their ability to create jobs. The University has requested $200 million in HEAPR. 

After House lawmakers were forced to adjourn, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL- Golden Valley, said the Legislature needed more than a week to work out important issues. 

“We need to pass a bonding bill that will create jobs and provide opportunity and build communities and infrastructure all across the state,” Winkler said on the House floor. “It is unfortunate that the Senate decided one week was all we could muster to address these issues because quite frankly they are much bigger than a week.”

Gazelka said he believes the Legislature could convene for another special session to address unfinished business.