Colleges do better in Senate bonding bill

ST. PAUL - Minnesota's colleges and universities are the biggest beneficiaries under a Senate bill to fund construction projects statewide. Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system campuses would get $142 million more than Gov. Tim Pawlen...

ST. PAUL - Minnesota's colleges and universities are the biggest beneficiaries under a Senate bill to fund construction projects statewide.

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system campuses would get $142 million more than Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposed and the University of Minnesota would receive $128 million more.

The entire bill that was introduced Tuesday night seeks to borrow $990 million, to be repaid by tax dollars. That is $145 million more than Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposed.

The bill is on the legislative fast track. Sen. Keith Langseth, chairman of the Capital Investment Committee that passed the bill shortly after first seeing it Tuesday night, said he expects a full Senate vote on the measure Thursday morning. The bill, financed by the state selling bonds, is the primary reason legislators are in session this year.

Action came quick in the committee's second meeting of the legislative session, but Langseth said the panel actually held 221 meetings since Labor Day. Committee members traveled the state in recent months to look over proposed projects.


"We had to say 'no' to about two-thirds of the dollar requests," Langseth said. About $2.8 billion in projects had been requested by state agencies, local governments and colleges and universities.

The unanimous Tuesday night vote came after Langseth read highlights of the bill to committee members. No one disputed anything in the bill. But that wasn't the case in the executive branch.

Pawlenty said he did not want to go as high as Langseth.

"I jokingly refer to him as Sen. Maximum," Pawlenty said.

"I have been called worse," Langseth retorted later.

The Republican governor continued to resist pressure to increase how much the state would borrow. And he issued a threat if legislators send him a bill larger than he wants: "I may have no choice but to line-item veto stuff."

But on Tuesday night, Republican and Democratic senators alike praised Langseth's measure.

The bill is due in the Senate Finance Committee today, where no problems are expected, and Langseth hopes for the full Senate to vote on it Thursday. If a vote cannot come Thursday, he will request a Friday vote to avoid lobbyist pressure that could build to add more projects over the weekend.


Once the Senate passes the so-called bonding bill, it will await House approval of its own measure. The House is expected to approve a bill with funding between the Senate and Pawlenty's proposals.

Among the Senate bonding bill's highlights:

-- $55 million to preserve the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system's facilities, $35 million more than Pawlenty proposed.

-- $223 million overall to MnSCU, compared to $142 million in the governor's request.

-- $153 million for the University of Minnesota, compared to $128 million in the governor's plan.

-- $50 million to counties to replace local bridges statewide, and $12 million for local roads.

-- $20 million for local government sewer projects, $5 million more than Pawlenty.

-- $15 million for a new Red Lake school, $5 million more than Pawlenty. The school says it needs $55 million.


-- $24 million to fight floods, compared to $9 million Pawlenty wanted.

-- $12 million for state parks, twice the governor's request.

-- No money would be spent on the second phase of the Conservation Reserve Enhanced Program, which would set aside marginal cropland in northwest, southwest and southeast Minnesota; the governor proposed about $30 million.

-- $6.5 million for Minnesota State University Moorhead's MacLean Hall, while the governor's bill had nothing.

-- $1 million out of a needed $5 million to extend the Heartland Trail from Park Rapids to Detroit Lakes. Eventually it is to go to Moorhead.

-- $13.3 million for Century Community and Technical College's new science and library building, the same as the governor.

-- $467,000 to plan a Bemidji State University science building renovation and addition, the same as the governor.

-- $3.2 million to allow Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical in Red Wing new build a student services and resource center facility, the same as the governor.


-- $560,000 to plan an Alexandria Technical College law enforcement center facility, while the governor suggested nothing.

-- $1.5 million for Granite Falls flood-control.

-- $200,000 for the Goodhue Pioneer Trail.

-- $1 million for the Paul Bunyan Trail.

-- $3 million for port development assistance.

-- $1 million for the Robert Street bus corridor in Dakota County.

-- $321,000 for the Lower Afton Trail.

-- $3.2 million for the Lewis and Clark Rural Water System in southwestern Minnesota. Pawlenty included nothing.


-- $1.6 million for the Redwood Falls Lake Redwood Reservoir Reclamation project. Pawlenty included nothing.

-- $500,000 for the Rice Hospital/University of Minnesota dental clinic construction project in Willmar. The governor included nothing.

Proposed projects that were not included in the Senate bill include:

-- The start of designing a regional event center in Bemidji. The governor proposed $3 million.

-- A $3.1 million request to find a new use for the Ah-Gwah-Ching nursing home near Walker.

-- Paul Bunyan Trail land purchase, improvements and construction of a bridge over Highway 197.

-- Several Dakota County projects, including affordable assisted living development, waste clean-up projects, public safety center, Empire Township wetlands acquisition and a regional travel demand study.

-- Kenyon embankment removal.


-- Minnesota River trail land purchase from Granite Falls to Montevideo.

-- Perham resource recovery facility.

-- Red Wing community arts and recreation center.

-- Ridgewater college renovation.

-- Slayton regional events center.

-- Wadena County regional justice center.

-- Three Washington County projects, including Red Rock transitway, removing toll bridge at South St. Paul, and studying a high-speed rail corridor.

-- Willmar wastewater treatment plant upgrades.

-- Windom wastewater line extension.

-- Woodbury reconstruction at Interstate 94 and Radio Drive.

-- Worthington infrastructure replacement grants and soil remediation grant.

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