Local projects in bonding bill - for nowThe Minnesota House kicked its public works funding proposal to more than $1 billion Monday, adding a facility for 400 sex offenders.
By: By Don Davis, State Capitol Bureau and Al Edenloff, Editor, Alexandria Echo Press
ST. PAUL – The Minnesota House kicked its public works funding proposal to more than $1 billion Monday, adding a facility for 400 sex offenders.
Representatives voted 92-37, with some Republicans joining Democrats, to fund colleges, trails, transportation and other construction projects.
Three big projects that would help the Douglas County area remain in the bonding bill:
•More than $4.36 million would go toward renovating the space where law enforcement training was once offered at the Alexandria Technical College (ATC). (The college has since added a new law enforcement wing.)
•The ATC would also receive $2.61 million in Higher Educational Asset Preservation funds. This would be “paint ready” or immediate improvements in the college’s electrical, plumbing and ventilation systems.
•A total of $5 million is designated for Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management’s expansion to help build a third combustor.
Douglas County Hospital, 3M, and the ATC, which purchase steam from the facility, would benefit from the project, noted Senator Bill Ingebrigtsten, R-Alexandria, who is supporting the measure in the Senate version of the bonding bill that provides $6 million for the expansion.
“This is a great long-term investment for our community and embodies the true intent of the bonding bill,” said Ingebrigtsen.
Overall, the only major change in the House bonding bill came when representatives voted 114-19 to spend $89 million to build a 400-bed addition to the Moose Lake sex offender treatment center.
Decorum broke down in the House chamber as the time ran out for debate, and Republicans objected to what they said was Democratic-Farmer-Labor leadership cutting them off.
“It’s too bad we couldn’t have informed each other and the people of Minnesota about what was in this bill,” said Representative Marty Seifert, R-Marshall.
Representatives debated the bill for more than four hours.
Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty insisted on the sex offender facility, and Representative Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, offered an amendment to include it. A Senate-passed bill contains $1 million for the facility, something Senator Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, called a placeholder so the topic could be discussed later.
The House and Senate bills are headed to a conference committee that is to work out differences between what the two chambers passed. They each spend about $1 billion.
However, Pawlenty wants to spend no more than $685 million, and on Monday said he would either veto individual projects or kill the entire bill if lawmakers send him a bill he deems as too big.
Pawlenty said he could not accept a bonding bill that funds civic centers and other things he called not essential, but did not include the sex offender facility. The bill also includes $50 million to prevent flooding, mostly along the Red River Valley.
The overall bill funds public works projects across the state with money raised by the state selling bonds.
About a third of the bonding bill funds state-run college and university improvements, ranging from additions to classroom buildings to roof repairs. It also contains money for projects such as sewage systems, park improvements, civic centers and transportation improvements.
Republicans generally said they supported the Moose Lake expansion, but wondered where Democrats would get the money. Efforts failed to cut other projects in the bill to make room for Moose Lake.
“I don’t think it is a good idea to add on,” House Minority Leader Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said. “I think there should be a reduction in the balance sheet.”
Hausman responded that she was trying to accommodate the governor.
“This was an olive branch ... to start negotiations with the governor,” she said.
Democrats said a contractors’ organization estimates that the bill would create 21,000 construction and related jobs.
“This bill is one bright spot in a gloomy economy,” Hausman said.