Deal reached on Minnesota public works spending

Legislative leaders have reached an agreement on a public works construction bill to be considered during the upcoming special session.

The bill authorizes

more than $320 million

 $373 million for several projects, including transportation bonds for rerouting Highway 53 on the Iron Range.  It also includes nearly $180 million in general obligation bonding money for projects including finishing the state Capitol renovation and building animal testing labs in St. Paul and Willmar.

Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, says the labs are geared toward testing and preventing the spread of the bird flu that is devastating poultry flocks.

“These buildings aren’t going to be built overnight but it’s apparent these disease is not going away overnight either,” Torkelson said. “I feel it’s appropriate that we invest in these facilities to do what we can to address the long-term issues here.”

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The bill also includes funding for disaster relief in Scott County and several other counties.

Legislative leaders have been negotiating the details of the bill because a 60 percent supermajority is needed to pass it.

In the House, Republicans need at least nine Democrats to join every Republican member to pass the bill. But Torkelson said they may need additional DFL support.

“I don’t expect 100 percent of the [Republican] caucus to vote for this, and even 100 percent of my caucus doesn’t pass it,” he said. “I believe that the Democrats will provide more than enough votes to pass this bill.”

The bonding bill is one of several items lawmakers are trying to finalize before Gov. Mark Dayton calls lawmakers back into a special session.

And it appears that they’re inching closer to finalizing the issues being handled in a special session.

Sen. Leroy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, said lawmakers negotiating a bonding bill were told to finalize things quickly.

“We’re at a point where we have to wind up, and our orders were to get things done,” Stumpf said.

Stumpf said the plan does not include a parking garage underneath the Capitol. The Senate passed a bonding bill that included that measure on the final night of the regular session.

Dayton has to call lawmakers back into a special session after vetoing three budget bills. He and House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, agreed to spend $525 million more on early childhood education and K-12 schools. They are also working out their differences on a environment and agriculture budget bill and a economic development funding bill.

Dayton has not said when he’ll call lawmakers back into a special session.

He said on Wednesday that he won’t call them back unless they agree to strip a provision in law that removes the state auditor’s authority to audit county governments.

(This post was updated based on numbers released by negotiators after they talked with reporters) 

 

Here's the spreadsheet that details the list of projects: