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House GOP rolls out bonding proposal

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Minnesota House Republicans rolled out an $800 million bonding bill proposal Wednesday that they hope to pass in the remaining days of the 2016 session.

The package of public construction projects is $200 million bigger than an earlier House bonding target. But it’s $600 million short of DFL Governor Mark Dayton's plan and $700 million less than what Senate Democrats proposed but failed to pass earlier this month.

The House bonding bill is heavy on transportation projects ($227 million). It also includes funding for college campus improvements throughout the state ($137 million) and local water infrastructure projects ($130 million).

Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, chair of the House Capitol Investment Committee, said in a news release that the proposal focuses on the priorities important to communities across Minnesota.

“This is a true compromise that finds agreement with the governor and the Senate and respects taxpayers by not exceeding our 10 year bonding average," Torkelson said.

Torkelson’s committee was scheduled to take action on the bill Wednesday.

Bonding bills require a three-fifths super majority to pass. House Republicans will need the help of Democrats to reach that threshold.

Lawmakers and interest groups have begun complaining about what’s not in the bill.

Senta Leff, executive director of the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless took note of the absence of $90 million for affordable housing.

“Thousands of homeless and low-income families are counting on lawmakers to pass a bonding bill that invests in housing,” Leff said in a news release. “Real lives are at stake.”

Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, told members of the House Ways and Means Committee that she doesn't like the bill.

“I’m feeling a little grouchy this morning because nothing from my city is in this bill. Nothing,” Liebling said.

Democrats tried unsuccessfully in the Ways and Means meeting to increase the bonding amount to the governor’s level. But the the committee chair, Rep. Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, said the governor’s bonding bill is too large.

“I think that we have just gotten into the habit of borrowing too much money,” Knoblach said.

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen said Republicans are showing an unusual lack of interest in working together to pass a bonding bill.

"Everyone knows that a bonding bill requires votes from Republicans and Democrats, yet House Republicans have refused to work with Democrats to craft a bill," he said in a statement. "Instead, they have cobbled a bill together behind closed doors with just a few days left in the legislative session. Perhaps not surprisingly, the bill includes very few priorities for House DFL members and falls far short on needed statewide investments."