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House passed bonding bill; heads to Senate

The Minnesota House this afternoon passed a public works finance bill 99-32 that would spend nearly a half billion dollars on a wide range of projects, ranging from beginning a several-year Capitol building renovation project to fixing college buildings.

Senators could take up the measure later today.

In general, Democrats wanted to spend more money while Republicans preferred less. Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, said his bill is a compromise.

Among highlights of where the bill spends money:

-- University of Minnesota, $64 million.

-- Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, $132 million.

-- Flood fighting, $30 million.

-- State Capitol restoration, $44 million.

-- Local bridges, $30 million.

-- Greater Minnesota transit, $8 million.

-- Local roads, $10 million.

-- Corrections Department, $9 million.

-- Infrastructure grants, $50 million.

-- Foreclosure prevention, $30 million.

Funds would be raised by the state selling bonds, and repaid over up to 30 years.

The bill was to be debated last week, but Howes said that Gov. Mark Dayton demanded that the University of Minnesota and MnSCU figures were closer together.

Howes, chairman of the committee who deals with public works projects, worked with others to raise the university level $10 million while cutting MnSCU spending $13 million.

Howes' bill includes $50 million that the state Department of Employment and Economic Development can hand out for economic development uses. He said it could be used projects such as those often including in the bonding bill, including civic centers that were not included in this year's bill.

"This was a way that greater Minnesota communities, who many times don't have lobbyists to speak for them, can go through DEED and get the money," Howes said.

Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, praised the bill for spending $30 million for flood prevention.

It "will go a long way ... protecting our cities and communities from 100-year flood," Marquart said.

Some were not so happy. Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, complained that the bill does not include money to fight Asian carp.

"We're saying we are going to give the carp another year to get up the Mississippi," she said about the fish that eat so much food as to leave native species wanting.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.