Bonding bill stalls at the Capitol

Brady Averill

The Capital Investment Conference Committee met Monday, hoping to pass the state bonding bill, but did not reach an agreement as of press time.

For several hours, the committee, which comprises five House members and five Senate members, hotly debated two bonding bill proposals.

The bonding bill funds construction projects around the state, including ones at the University.

The first proposal was for $880 million, which would give the University $106 million for construction projects. The other was a $950 million proposal that would give the University $113 million.

The Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement fund and the recreational sports center on the University’s Duluth campus are the only University projects funded differently in the two proposals.

Todd Iverson, University assistant director of state relations, said, “We’d be less happy (with the $106 million) than the $113 million.”

He said less money for the preservation and replacement program means not being able to fund certain maintenance projects. For example, if a roof doesn’t get replaced, Iverson said, it will simply continue to leak.

The state pays 100 percent of the preservation and replacement program’s projects, but it contributes two-thirds to other University projects.

Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, co-chairman of the conference committee, said he would not support the lower $880 million bill.

But Rep. Laura Brod, R-New Prague, said the figure was fair. If the House was not willing to negotiate on the bill, she said, it would have come up with a lower number.

Langseth said he disagreed with Brod’s comments.

“That’s very interesting, but we don’t believe in an $880 million proposal,” he said.

Sen. Steve Dille, R-Dassel, said the committee should go with the bigger bill.

“I think we should think in terms of a big bonding bill,” he said.

Rep. Dan Dorman, R-Albert Lea, co-chairman of the conference committee, said, “I don’t necessarily think we’re afraid of a larger bonding bill, but I certainly think we’re concerned about what’s in it.”

Whether the $880 million or $950 million bill passes, Dorman said, either would add to the state’s deficit.

As the night waxed on, Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, pleaded with the committee to come to a decision.

“Let’s get the business of Minnesota done,” he said.