As the clock ticked closer to midnight, it looked like a Bonding Bill would come to pass after all, but because of an omission on the House side of spending for mass transit the senate amended the bill in the final minutes. When Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-46, St Louis Park) propose an authorization for the Metropolitan Council to expand to another $10 million, the price tag for the bill rose to $1 billion. The response from the House was to adjourn sine die without accepting the change.
This is somewhat surprising, since the Chamber of Commerce and the Minnesota Business Partnership wanted money to update the Transit Hub at the Mall of America, prior to the 2018 Super Bowl, and state money was needed for a Federal match to help fund the transit stop on 35W along with the planned road repair. Refer back to our article from May 05, 2016, Legislative Session Likely to End in a Whimper.
The Republican House, clearly shied away from a billion dollar Bonding Bill, because they have a misguided perspective that bonding dollars are purchases made on a credit card. This mechanism allows our state to leverage money in the long-term for infrastructure improvements while establishing buying power in the short-term. Over the course of time the money does have a cost, which is the interest rate called, debt service, but it is a far cheaper way to raise money other than paying fMNor the project up front. The adage applied is the best time to fix your roof is when the sun is shining. Minnesota applies a lower number than other states for its long-term bonding, which is 3.5% over the overall state budget. The current Minnesota Operating Budget is projected at $42.298 billion. Meaning the available debt service is over 1.4 million, but Republicans balk at a Bonding Bill which exceeds the mystical billion dollar amount.
Now, there are early discussions about having Governor Mark Dayton (DFL) call a Special Session, but this begs the question, why? If the legislature couldn’t get it work done on the principle reason for their being in St Paul, a Bonding Bill, which they had 11 weeks to finish. What makes one think they will be able to complete their task if they go into extra innings?
The House put up 91 votes for the bill, and they did so by picking off specific DFLers with projects in their districts, which most were in safe legislative seats or the members were retiring. This means the Bonding Bill, was just what we have claimed all along a political calculus for the fall election.