The Minnesota Senate has overwhelmingly passed a public works construction bill by a 45-22 vote, following similar action in the House on Monday.
The proposal calls for borrowing $496 million for construction work on college campuses, flood mitigation, and to renovate the Capitol. It also allocates nearly $50 million to the Department of Employment and Economic Development to spend on unnamed economic development projects in Minnesota.
Republican Sen. Sean Nienow, of Cambridge, said the money should be spent on roads and bridges instead of on projects like gorilla cages for the Como Park Zoo.
"It's explicitly for a need that we all agree is decades behind: roads and bridges," he said. We will know what it's going for, and we will know that it's not for gorilla cages."
An amendment to use additional money for roads and bridges failed.
The House can now either accept the Senate version in full, or force a conference committee before final approval.
The differences between the two bills are small. For example, the Senate plan earmarked some of the money from an economic development fund for a center that focuses on treating victims of domestic violence, and to build a flood wall in South St. Paul.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem says he's not worried about the differences with the House.
"I think the important thing is we got a bill out that's going to do a lot of good things around the state of Minnesota. That's the positive here. We can work out the small differences," he said.
Gov. Mark Dayton proposed a larger, $775 million bonding bill but has said he was willing to sign a bill that spent less money.