Too large, say top Republicans about Governor Mark Dayton’s $1.5 billion bonding proposal for state public works projects. The governor responds the House and Senate have already approved most of the projects. “This is catch-up,” Dayton says, “and that’s why it’s so vital to be done in this first month of the legislative session in January, so that these projects can be ready to go when construction season begins.” Rochester Republican Senator Dave Senjem says about the governor’s bonding bill number, “We’re probably just not gonna go that high. I’m pretty sure about that.” Senjem, who chairs the Senate Capital Investment Committee, suggests a template for a new bonding bill could be legislation that died in the closing moments of last year’s session. He notes that bill, which was just under $1 billion, “had fairly strong bipartisan support actually on both sides, House and Senate, and to bring that forward and use that as the blueprint for…[writing] up a bonding bill for this session.” A bonding bill agreement between Republicans and Democrats blew up in the closing minutes of the 2016 session because of a disagreement over funding for light rail in the Twin Cities.
It’s possible that, like last year, a bonding bill could get tangled up in the debate over tax cuts and road-and-bridge funding. In 2016 Republicans pushed for transportation funding in the bonding bill which ultimately died. House Speaker Kurt Daudt says, “Minnesotans, particularly in Greater Minnesota, are very concerned about the road and bridge infrastructure.” Governor Dayton has said a gas tax increase is the only way to raise enough money to improve Minnesota’s transportation system. Republicans strongly disagree.
More from Wednesday’s news conference by Sen. Senjem: