Minnesota lawmakers passed the state’s two-year budget in the final hours of the special session, but amid the end-of-session chaos, hundreds of millions of dollars worth of proposed public works funding fell short of a vote.
Earlier this session, Gov. Tim Walz and House Democrats rolled out public works proposals that would fund infrastructure projects across the state including dollars for roads and bridges, public transportation, university campuses, water and parks.
Walz’s bonding proposal rounded out to almost $1.3 billion, while the House topped that at $1.5 billion.
Chair of the House Capital Investment Committee Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, said the bills represents needs from across the state.
“[The bill] connects Minnesotans in many ways, in recreation and in following their work ethic and their hopes and dreams,” she said in an April committee meeting.
But House Republicans expressed concern over the bill’s size, stating such a large proposal isn’t typical in an odd-numbered year. While smaller bonding bills have been passed in odd-numbered years, even-numbered years are traditionally designated for such funding.
The Senate’s Capital Investment Committee, which typically puts out bonding proposals, did not meet this session. Committee chair Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester, said his committee had no intention of putting together a bonding bill this year.
But after Walz met with Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman, the tribunal announced they had agreed upon a $500 million bonding target. This gave lawmakers just a few days to agree on a bill.
In the end, Senjem said there wasn’t enough time for House and Senate leadership to agree upon allocations for the $500 million. Lengthy testimonies would be required to put together such a bill, which wasn’t possible, he said.
Senjem also said his caucus wanted to prioritize statewide projects rather than “local” infrastructure, which was a point of debate across the aisle.
“We wanted to use this year to focus on state assets,” he said.
The House bill included funding for multiple municipal and regional projects, from $133 million for the Metropolitan Council to $2 million to the City of Minneapolis for an outdoor performance venue.
Senjem said he anticipates next year’s bonding process to be “business as usual” and said he would support a bill of around $800 million.
A few stand alone bonding bills did manage to pass before the Legislature adjourned. In the final hours of the special session, lawmakers passed a $60 million affordable housing bonding bill.