Weather Forecast


Minn. GOP, Dems differ on how much to spend on bonding projects

ST. PAUL — Lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton will most likely take out a massive taxpayer-backed loan this year to fund a pile of construction projects.

The only questions are how much should the loan be and which projects should be funded?

Spoiler alert: Democrats say it should be bigger than what Republicans say.

Support from both parties is needed to pass a construction spending plan. Both sides agree that money must be spent on infrastructure, ranging from crumbling state buildings to new water-treatment plants.

One wild card: How will President Donald Trump's infrastructure plan progress, and what effects might it have on local needs and wants?

Here are some numbers. Watch them grow.

$800 million

This is what Republican leaders have indicated they see as a reasonable target in what will be known around the Capitol as "the bonding bill."

$1 billion

This is roughly the amount lawmakers and Dayton agreed to fund last year. Normally, a big bonding bill is every other year, but they couldn't agree on one in 2016. Also, $1 billion has traditionally been seen by both parties as a "limit" for a bonding bill. Dayton's budget commissioner, Myron Frans, says this number is arbitrary and dates back to the 1990s. Adjusted for inflation, it would be about $1.5 billion in today's dollars.

$1.5 billion

This is what Dayton has proposed. However, his proposal was limited to two classes of projects: roughly $1 billion for state projects and about $500 million for infrastructure owned by the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State college system. Nothing from the wish lists of local governments.

$2.3 billion

This is how much Dayton's proposal would be if he added in all those wish lists from local governments, such as St. Paul's hope to have the RiverCentre parking ramp rebuilt. And Dayton said he's actually willing to support a $2.3 billion plan. Of course, it's well above anything the Republicans are likely to support.

$3.5 billion

This is what credit-rating agencies say Minnesota can safely borrow to keep a healthy debt burden, according to Frans. Democrats might use it in talks.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service