The Potluck

Walz proposes $3.3 billion infrastructure package

By: - January 26, 2023 5:07 pm

Gov. Tim Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter toured St. Paul Regional Water Services on Thursday, Jan. 26. Photo by Michelle Griffith/Minnesota Reformer.

Gov. Tim Walz proposed spending $3.3 billion on Minnesota’s roads, water systems, affordable housing projects and repair of state buildings.

Walz and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say it’s time to pass an infrastructure bill — known around the Capitol as a bonding bill because they often rely on borrowed money — after a split Legislature stalled critical public works spending for two years.

Walz’s infrastructure plan includes $1.9 billion in bonds to pay for various projects.  This would require three-fifths of each Legislative chamber’s vote, meaning Democratic leaders will need to get some Republicans on board. Nearly $900 million of the projects in Walz’s infrastructure package would be paid for in cash, which requires a simple majority — something a DFL majority would likely be able to deliver.

Walz, after touring St. Paul’s water utility company near Maplewood, said he wants to work with Republicans to negotiate a bonding bill, and he is optimistic one will pass this year.

“Minnesotans understand that when you invest in your people and you invest in your infrastructure, you create opportunities for economic growth and a high quality of life,” Walz said.

The administration said 38% of the spending would go to maintaining or improving existing infrastructure.

Walz said $3.3 billion is a big number, but said local communities, government agencies and colleges and universities made requests for twice that.

Lawmakers said they are also committed to approving more money for Minnesota infrastructure, but House Speaker Melissa Hortman told the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities on Wednesday that if Democrats and Republicans can’t come to an agreement by the end of the legislative session, they will fund the projects with cash that has piled up after years of surpluses.

“If we get to the end of the session, and we don’t have four-caucus participation, we will use cash,” Hortman said.

Sen. Karin Housley, R-Stillwater, said in a statement that Walz’s infrastructure package doesn’t have bipartisan support.

“If Democrats decide they don’t want our support for a bonding bill and pass a cash bill instead, it will be because they failed to compromise, and an abuse of their one-party control. That would be a terrible disservice to the state,” said Housley, who is also the Republican lead on the Senate Capital Investment Committee.

Republicans are already grousing that Walz’s two-year budget proposal he unveiled Wednesday would spend too much and tax too much.

Lawmakers last session came close to a $1.5 billion bonding agreement, but ultimately failed.

Here are a few projects in the Walz proposal: 

  • $200 million for capital projects for organizations that are led by and serve people of color.
  • Allowing the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency to sell $250 million in bonds for senior and affordable housing.
  • $170 million for renovations to preserve University of Minnesota buildings. 
  • $146 million for renovations of university buildings within the Minnesota State system.
  • $144 million to fund grants that allow local governments to repair bridges.
  • $133 million for renovations of Department of Natural Resources assets, including fishing hatchery infrastructure, roads and trails.
  • $91 million to construct and maintain Department of Transportation buildings, including truck stops and its headquarters.
  • $75 million to repair and renovate correctional facilities statewide.
  • $50 million to improve security in and around the State Capitol building.

The Minnesota House already approved a $500 million renovation and expansion of the State Office Building, which is where House members have offices and committee hearing rooms. Construction could begin as early as January 2024.

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Michelle Griffith
Michelle Griffith

Michelle Griffith covers Minnesota politics and policy for the Reformer, with a focus on marginalized communities. Most recently she was a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota where she covered state and local government and Indigenous issues.