Session Ends Without Bonding Bill, Transportation Plan
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota's legislative session ended in chaos and with a pile of unfinished work early Monday morning, as a last-ditch effort to fund both public works projects and road and bridge repairs failed in a blur of parliamentary procedures.
As the midnight Sunday deadline to pass bills fell, lawmakers had finalized some pieces of their plans to use a $900 million budget surplus. That includes a package of $260 million of tax credits in cuts to aid farmers, parents, businesses and college students. They also passed extra spending on a statewide voluntary preschool program and broadband Internet infrastructure development.
But lawmakers' failure to pass the biggest piece, a so-called bonding bill to fund construction projects and transportation projects, hung over the session's conclusion, immediately sparking talk that the Legislature could return for a special session to wrap it up.
"My hope is that we'll find a way to get it passed," House Speaker Kurt Daudt said.
Legislative leaders from the Republican-controlled House and Democrat-led Senate immediately began casting blame on one another for the measure's failure.
The details of that package — with more than $1 billion in borrowing and a chunk of the state's budget surplus earmarked for the transportation fixes — were subject to no public hearings and didn't emerge until just 30 minutes remained in session.
After the House hurriedly passed the bill, the Senate added a provision critical to urban Democrats that freed up some extra funding for mass transit projects that Republicans have opposed. As a legislative aide ran the bill across the street to the House chamber for final approval, House Republicans abruptly moved to close their session for the year — ahead of schedule, as the Legislature wasn't set to adjourn until later Monday.
Lawmakers headed into the 11-week session that began in early March with hopes of delivering a transportation funding package to provide a decade's worth of repairs. But lawmakers couldn't agree on how to drum up more money for the fixes, and the bonding bill's failure means lawmakers will go home empty-handed on that front.
Still, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk called it a productive session, noting the tax bill and extra spending measures. But whether Gov. Mark Dayton would sign the bills was still unclear.
Dayton's office has said he'd withhold comment until more details about the spending packages came into focus. He has 14 days to decide whether to sign the pieces lawmakers passed.