(The Center Square) – In its fifth special session, the Minnesota House approved a $1.9 billion bonding package, which includes statewide infrastructure projects, tax breaks and other spending.
House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, applauded the bill's passage after a six-month stalemate.
“All Minnesotans deserve safe, healthy, and inclusive communities,” Hortman said in a statement. “At a time when Minnesota's economy is suffering extreme stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that the state legislature do everything it can to create jobs and stimulate economic growth. This bill will create jobs and provide projects our communities need."
HF 1 would create 20,000 jobs, bill sponsor Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown said during the debate.
“We listened to Minnesotans who have been asking for our help,” Murphy said in a statement. “This economic stimulus bill connects Minnesotans to other Minnesotans, addresses critical public infrastructure needs across the state, and will create thousands of jobs at a time when they are sorely needed. I am grateful to everyone who contributed to this important jobs and local projects and economic development package."
The bill as passed is more than $3 billion below what some legislators had requested initially.
The debt service for the General Obligation bonds alone is $1.13 billion over fiscal years 2020-21 and $1.28 billion for fiscal years 2022-23.
Democrats had to garner six GOP votes to meet the 81 votes requirement but received 25 Republican votes, mostly attracted by tax cuts for businesses and farmers when buying equipment.
Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) opposes the bill.
“I’ll be voting no on this bill,” Garofalo said. “I don’t enjoy spending that is not paid for. It works for Washington, but it doesn’t work for Minnesota.”
Minnesota has a projected $4.7 billion deficit for the fiscal years 2022-2023.
The bill also includes several lawmaker pet projects.
- Minnesota Zoological Garden: $13 million
- Camp Ripley Military Museum: $14 million
- Outdoor performance venue in Minneapolis: $12.5 million
- Municipal Athletic Complex in St. Cloud: $10 million
- Victoria Theatre St. Paul: $1 million
- Public television equipment appropriation bonds: $15 million
The plan would shell out $7.5 million to keep two state prisons in Togo and Willow River open. The plan would send $75 million to the University of Minnesota, $90 million to Minnesota state colleges and universities, and $116 million to affordable housing projects.
In total, the May riots cost taxpayers nearly another $11 million.
About $3.58 million would fund the Department of Public Safety for Twin City riot costs; $2.11 million would fund the Department of Natural Resources’ riot costs; and $5.07 million from the Trunk Highway Fund would fund the state patrol’s response.
Jessica Looman, the executive director of Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council, said more than 10,000 construction jobs depend on the bill becoming law.
“The Minnesota House took an historic step today to bond for $1.88 billion to invest in the state’s infrastructure, but more importantly, they voted to invest in Minnesota’s communities,” Looman said in a statement. “This was a bipartisan effort to ensure that Minnesota keeps building.”
The House adjourned sine die, leaving the GOP-controlled Senate with the option to take the package as-is or drop it.
Sen. Michelle Benson, a top Republican tweeted: “The House should not adjourn Sine Die. There were changes made without agreed upon language. The Senate deserves a chance to voice our concerns. This is too important for a take-it-or-leave-it negotiating tactic."
The bill cleared the House, but there was no agreement in the other chamber as of Monday, Senate Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said in a statement.
“The important things in this bill, about $200 mil in tax relief for main street & farmers, $700 mil for road & bridges, & $300 mil in wastewater treatment are being put in jeopardy by additional amendments, conversations, and backroom antics we are not a part of.”