The bonding bill is the first of several budget-related measures likely to emerge this week from conference committees and head for votes in the House and Senate.
The key elements of the capital investment package include a down payment for the Central Corridor light-rail line between St. Paul and Minneapolis, funding for arenas in Duluth and St. Cloud, and flood relief for Browns Valley.
Most of the money comes from a combination of $165 million in cash on hand and another $135 million in borrowing.
DFL House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher says the proposal pays for needed projects across the state.
"Minnesotans know that when you have the cash available, it's time to fix the roof and so this bill is a lot about fixing roofs. It's about fixing roofs at the University of Minnesota and at MnSCU campuses all across the state," she said.
The plan spends much more than either proposal that initially passed the House or Senate. That led Republican House Minority Leader Marty Seifert of Marshall to say the conference committee members were using poor math when they came up with the figures in the bill.
"This would be like two kids living in a small house and want a pet. One of them wants a pet hamster. The other wants a kitten and they compromise on a rhinoceros," he said.
The DFL-controlled House passed the measure 84 to 49 despite GOP efforts to defeat the measure. The Senate, also run by DFLers, quickly followed suit by passing the bill 45 to 18.
The package is four times larger than Gov. Pawlenty's $81 million proposal.
Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, didn't object to the size of the budget bill, but he complained about the timing. He said lawmakers were passing a bonding bill before they passed any of their key budget bills. Michel says lawmakers and the governor should agree on an overall spending plan for the state before they even consider a bill committing the state to shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars.
"I just think we need to see the entire tax-and-spending package before we do a bonding bill," he said. "We should have the main course and the vegetables before we have dessert. A bonding bill is the dessert. This is the extra. This is the icing on the cake for a typical legislative session."
DFLers in the House and Senate say they hope Gov. Pawlenty will keep an open mind about the bonding bill and the other budget related items.
Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, isn't so optimistic. Langseth, who chairs the Senate Capital Investment Committee, says he doesn't know what Gov. Pawlenty will do, but he suspects the entire bill could face a veto.
"We haven't refrained from putting anything he wanted in the bill. Everything's there. But because we've got some that he didn't have in there, that's somehow unfair or something, I don't know," he said.
Gov. Pawlenty's spokesman, Brian McClung, says the governor will veto the entire bill or at least the projects he doesn't like. McClung says the governor has been clear that the bill is too large and many of the projects can wait until next year. That's when the Legislature traditionally considers capital investment projects.
"The bill is way out of whack," McClung said. "It's way too large and we're not going to have a massive bonding bill like this in a non-bonding year. The DFL legislators did not include the governor or the governor's office in putting the priorities in the bonding bill. As a result, it's going to get a big haircut or its going to get vetoed all together."
McClung says it's likely the governor will veto many of the other budget-related bills since there isn't an overall agreement on how to pay for the entire package. DFLers in the House and Senate are including an income tax increase on top earners to pay for a portion of their budget. The governor says he opposes tax increases.
Despite the veto threats, DFL legislative leaders seem intent on sending Pawlenty the smaller budget bills. DFL Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller says the Senate will vote Tuesday on a budget bill that funds agriculture and veterans' programs. He says the goal is to avoid the typical end-of-session rush by passing the minor budget-related bills as soon as possible. Pogemiller wouldn't say if DFL leaders have a backup plan in case the governor vetoes all of the budget bills.