Minnesota Senate Republicans defeat $1.5B public works bill

ST. PAUL - Senate Republicans beat back Democratic attempts to pass a $1.5 billion public works bill Thursday, leaving in doubt one of the main issues for the Minnesota Legislature.

 ST. PAUL - Senate Republicans beat back Democratic attempts to pass a $1.5 billion public works bill Thursday, leaving in doubt one of the main issues for the Minnesota Legislature.

The 40-26 vote fell one short of the needed three-fifths majority.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, said the defeat makes it less likely that a public works bill funded by the state selling bonds can pass. He also expressed doubts about other major remaining issues in the legislative session that ends May 23.

However, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said he is optimistic the Legislature will pass bonding, transportation funding and overall budget legislation.

Bakk said he does not know what the path to passing a bonding bill can be. His Democrats, and some Republicans, were critical of what Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, described as a compromise bonding plan that would spend about $900 million.


The Senate Democrats' bill of $1.5 billion that failed is close to the $1.4 billion plan Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton offered. The Republican-controlled House plans a $600 million proposal, but Daudt on Thursday would not say when it will be released.

Senjem said the GOP proposal "skinnies it up," referring to the bigger Democratic plan.

Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said senators get emails every day saying the House plan is too low. Most Republicans said the Democratic plan was too pricey.

"This is a great compromise," Ingebrigtsen said. "That is what they are looking for."

But Democrats examined the smaller bill, complaining about things Senjem left out. It leaves out many projects Democrats would fund in communities, facilities such as police and fire department improvements and skips funding a new state emergency management center.

"More and more communities are needing help," bill sponsor Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, D-Plummer, said. "We can forget about them or build them up."

Stumpf said he received more than $5 billion in project requests.

The $274.4 million in the Senjem bill for road and bridge work, but nothing for transit, is about $100 million short of what Democrats want to borrow for transportation needs.


Republicans left in money to build railroad overpasses in Moorhead ($39,729), Red Wing ($13,762) and Coon Rapids ($11,987).

Transportation funding in House and Senate bonding bills may provide one of the rare agreements as negotiations are poised to begin on many major issues in time for a mandated May 23 adjournment date.

Bakk said that similarities between House and Senate plans may be the only chance Minnesota legislators have this year of approving new transportation funding. Senate Democrats are expected to offer a transportation proposal Friday, and Bakk said some bonding money will be included.

The House transportation plan, which has yet to be modified in light of a smaller-than-expected budget surplus, would include money from the surplus as well as transferring funds from existing programs. Democrats, on the other hand, want to use some surplus money and to add a new gasoline tax to fund billions of dollars' worth of roadwork needed in the next decade.

Another disagreement is Democrats want money for transit, while most Republicans oppose that.

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