Bonding requests roll in for projects around the state

Published 9:44 am Tuesday, July 16, 2013

ST. PAUL — Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration and the Legislature will have no shortage of projects to pick from when they devise next year’s construction works borrowing package.

A preliminary tally released Monday by the Department of Minnesota Management and Budget shows that $2.8 billion in requests have been put in so far. That includes more than $2.1 billion from state agencies and $682 million from local governments.

A bonding bill tends to be the focus of election-year sessions, and there’s early talk that lawmakers might be looking at a package in the neighborhood of $1 billion next year.

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But borrowing bills take a supermajority to pass, giving Republicans ample room to negotiate in an otherwise Democratic-controlled state government.

Dayton expects to issue his borrowing recommendations in January.

The Shell Rock River Watershed District has asked for $7.5 million for the Fountain Lake dredging project after the bonding bill failed this year.

Ramsey County has asked the state of Minnesota for a $15.6 million down payment for new roads around the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant in Arden Hills.

St. Paul wants about $29 million for museum, zoo and theater improvements.

Dakota and Washington counties have requested millions for transit and trail expansions.

State agencies have requested $2.1 billion for college classrooms, light-rail transit lines, roads, bridges and other projects.

Cities, counties and other local governments seek $682 million for convention centers, museums, sports facilities and sewer and water systems, among other projects.

The wish lists don’t appear to be unusually large. Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, who chairs the House Capital Investment Committee, has said lawmakers typically receive about $4 billion in requests and fund about $1 billion in each two-year budget cycle.

Dayton said last month that he expects to propose a bonding bill of about $1 billion early next year.

Last winter, he asked to borrow $812 million for construction projects, but House Republicans balked, and lawmakers instead passed a pared-down, $156 million bonding bill that included $109 million to continue restoring the crumbling state Capitol.

Republican leaders expect broad support for more construction work in 2014 because it will be a traditional “bonding year,” when the state borrows money through the sale of general obligation bonds to investors to finance construction projects.

The Capitol again will be the big-ticket item on the table. Dayton’s administration is requesting the final $126 million needed to complete the three-year, $272 million effort to upgrade the iconic 108-year-old building.

Before the project is completed, the administration is seeking $7 million to start a $97 million makeover of the State Office Building across the street from the Capitol. The project would accommodate the 134 members of the House.

Most senators, meanwhile, will be housed in a new $89.5 million office building to be constructed on the north side of the Capitol.

As usual, the largest state agency requests came from the University of Minnesota ($233 million) and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system ($286 million).