Governor Mark Dayton, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D- Cook will be sharing a boat this weekend for the Governor’s fishing opener on Lake Vermilion. A little bonding between the leaders before the final weeks of session may seem like a good idea, until you consider the fact that Dayton invited then-Speaker Kurt Zellers, then-Majority Leader Matt Dean, and Rep Joe Hoppe to the 2011 fishing opener and that was the year state government shut down.
But Daudt has been hailed by Minnesota media as a new kind of leader who can bring people together, so perhaps this year’s trip will produce a different result. The leaders could bond over a bonding bill which has become a negotiation chip as the legislative branches and chief executive seek to reconcile billions-of-dollars in differences in their proposed biennial budgets. While the state is not required to bond in an odd-year, legislative leaders could agree to do so anyway in order to pave the way for a larger budget deal.
Proponents of more issuing more government debt as a party of an odd-year bonding deal argue that the ongoing low interest rates make it the best time to borrow for more projects.
Governor Dayton’s $842 million bonding proposal includes:
- $115 million for MNSCU colleges (received $160 million in 2014)
- $100 million for the U of M (received $119 million in 2014)
- $50 million for additional government-subsidized housing
- $34.5 million to renovate Ft. Snelling
- $20 million to pay farmers for his 50 foot buffer waterway buffer plan
- $16 million for the Minnesota zoo (received $12 million in 2014)
- $12 million for the “Dorothy Day Connection Center” a $26.5 million project that’s part of a larger $100 million project in downtown St. Paul being built by Catholic Charities for the homeless
- $10 million for the Met Council (received $46 million in 2014)
- $3.5 million for the “Center for Changing Lives”, a $10.5 million project being built by Lutheran Social Services in Duluth for homeless youth
Senator David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, made a suggestion that if a bonding bill passes in the current session, that legislators agree not to meet for next year’s regular bonding session– which takes place in even years. Such a move would save the taxpayers millions in staffing expenditures and millions more in the additional debt they’d be sure to take on.
The legislature has bonded in all of the past dozen years with the exception of 2004 and 2007. With requests for bacon all over St. Paul, and votes yet to be swayed, look for a bonding bill to grease the skids for a budget deal.