House OKs U funding

by Jim Hammerand

The state House overwhelmingly passed its capital investment bonding bill Wednesday, sending the $949 million borrowing bill to face its final trial in a bicameral conference committee.

The bill would allow the state to take on $121 million in debt to pay for improvements to University infrastructure, including one-time maintenance of old structures and construction of new buildings.

Capital Investment Committee Chairman Dan Dorman, R-Albert Lea, was drowned out by member discussion as he covered the fine points of his bill before the House for the third time. He jokingly said the noise was because representatives were “surprised at the quality of this bill.”

The real noise came when amendments to the bill were discussed, although none dealt with the University’s funding. Despite heated discussion of local projects, the bill passed 114-16.

The House version of the bill would give the University about $32 million less than the Senate bill. The final version will be drawn up by a conference committee composed of three to five legislators from each chamber.

The chairmen of the capital investment committees, Dorman in the House and Keith Langseth in the Senate, each will choose legislators from their respective chambers to sit with them on the committees.

Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, and Dorman said they would choose lawmakers who are especially familiar with the bills. Both said they would select the head of their higher education committees as well as legislators that would reflect the political and geographical composition of the Legislature.

Langseth also said he would give special consideration to senators who toured Minnesota with him before the session started to evaluate funding requests.

“If somebody has spent a lot of time going around the state with us on our tours, I just feel that they know a lot more about the projects,” Langseth said.

Rep. Bruce Anderson, R-Buffalo Township, cast his vote against the bill. A self-described fiscal conservative, Anderson said the bill was bloated with local projects.

“The combination of just spending more money after more money after more money seems like it’s gotten out of hand as we continue to fall down a path of not controlling our spending,” Anderson said.

Dorman said he was concerned earmarked funds in the Senate bill would be a problem when the bills go to conference committee.

“(The Senate) earmarked a lot more individual projects, and I think that will be the most difficult thing for us to try to resolve,” Dorman said.

Dorman and Langseth said they would make their conference committee suggestions to their legislative leaders by Tuesday or Wednesday. The House, where the bill originated, planned to make this bill its last of the year.