Minnesota Senate Passes $1.9 Billion Bonding Bill

(AP Photo/Steve Karnowski)

The Minnesota Senate sent a $1.9 billion package of construction projects, tax breaks, and spending to Gov. Tim Walz’s desk, ending a six-month stalemate in the Legislature.

The vote was 64-3, getting overwhelming support from both parties. All three votes against came from Republicans: Bruce Anderson of Buffalo, Michelle Benson of Ham Lake, and Mark Johnson of East Grand Forks. The previous night, the House passed the bill and then adjourned, requiring the Senate to approve the measure as written — without amendments — or get nothing.

The bill funds infrastructure projects across the state provide tax incentives to businesses and farmers and prevent two state prisons from closing.

“It’s an infrastructure bill that our state needs a lot of because we have a lot to take care of,” said state Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, the Senate’s bonding chairman. “It’s also an infrastructure bill that will put many, many people to work. That’s what we need right now. We need many, many people at job sites working, earning money, paying taxes.”

The debate pitted Republicans against Republicans. Some promoted the bill as a success story, while others compared it to rancid milk.

“It’s akin to taking a chug from a gallon of milk and realizing it’s rancid and it automatically just naturally, impulsively expels from your mouth. You spit it out,” said state Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, the Senate tax chairman.

The bill includes $1.37 billion in borrowing for public works projects around the state, including a new Kellogg Avenue bridge in St. Paul to replace a deteriorating span and a road-raising project in Henderson to mitigate frequent flooding.

It also allows businesses to get a tax break immediately on new equipment purchases.

The measure includes $7.5 million that will keep two state prisons in Togo and Willow River open. Without an infusion of new cash, the Department of Corrections planned to close the facilities to plug a budget hole.

The bill also has $12.9 million to reimburse the Minnesota State Patrol, Department of Natural Resources, and Department of Transportation for their costs of responding to the springtime rioting in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The bill passed the House 100-34, with 25 Republicans joining all Democrats voting yes Wednesday night. The bill needed to start in the House because it contains borrowing and tax changes.

For months, GOP House members had held out, demanding Gov. Walz give up his emergency powers. Walz has not. Now, with Election Day fast approaching, the pressure mounts on Republicans to show they’ve been able to win construction projects for their districts.

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