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House committee rewrites bonding bill

ST. PAUL -- A public works borrowing bill of nearly $434 million received committee approval Friday night, a day after a major part of it lost by a single vote in the full House.

The package was added to another bill as an amendment, and Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, made some changes from the original proposal as well.

Howes' originally planned a $221 million bill for state Capitol building repair and a separate $280 million for projects statewide such as fixing state-owned buildings. In the Ways and Means Committee Friday, Howes offered an amendment that passed on a divided voice vote to combine the two.

The newly combined bill now faces a full House vote.

Some projects in the original public works bill were removed, lowering the cost nearly $70 million from the original plans.

Howes said the bill could be heard early next week on the House floor as legislative leaders expect to adjourn for the year in little more than a week. But the proposal's future is in question, even with the changes made, he said.

"At this point the signals seem to be the Democrats don't want a bonding bill," Howes said.

But he said he will continue work on the proposal.

"I'm not going to give up," he said.

Howes said he is "still flabbergasted" a Capitol building repair plan failed in the House this week. It received 80 votes, but needed 81.

Public works bills have not received votes in the House or Senate.

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said Democrats opposed the Capitol repair bill because it would take too much money away from other public works projects. "We need to have a bill that actually gets projects across the state that are the strategic objectives."

Senate Republicans have a nearly $500 million public works bill proposed, with funds coming from the state selling bonds. It folds in $25 million for a beginning to the Capitol repair project.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton suggests a $775 million public works bill, with another measure to fund the Capitol.