Minnesota Senate votes 63-4, giving final approval for $1.9 billion public works borrowing, tax cuts bill

    State Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester, introduces the public works borrowing bill on the Senate floor on Oct. 15.

    The Minnesota Senate on Thursday gave final approval to a nearly $2 billion public works borrowing and tax cuts package, voting 64-3.

    The measure, which needed a 60% supermajority in both chambers to pass, received 25 GOP votes in the House, where it passed 100-34. The House then adjourned sine die, effectively going home and leaving the fate of the package in the hands of the Senate. 

    GOP state senators criticized the move, saying it left them little choice but to accept the legislation that some said would only add to the state’s projected budget deficit without any commensurate spending cuts.

    “The biggest frustration frankly is we’re being jammed by the House,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said on the floor. “That is why you hear some of the angst in the Senate because that is not how we do it.”

    The legislation — coming just as Minnesotans have already begun voting on the next crop of 201 legislators — will inject money into the ailing Minnesota economy with tax cuts and public works spending in advance of the spring construction season. Much of the spending would go toward roads, bridges, water infrastructure and projects on university campuses. 

    State Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester, said it was a “good bill” and the culmination of months of work.

    “The journey started nearly a year ago with lots of trips around Minnesota,” Senjem said.

    Gov. Tim Walz, who is expected to sign the legislation once it reaches his desk, praised the passage of the bill.

    “This bonding bill is a smart investment that will create thousands of good-paying jobs, deliver improvements to local projects throughout Minnesota, and make our state a better place to live,” he said in a statement. “By finally coming together and working across the aisle, Minnesota proved once again that if Washington won’t lead—we will.”

    The legislative package includes one-time cash appropriations for state law enforcement agencies, including the State Patrol and Department of Natural Resources, which deployed officers to help quell the civil unrest this summer following the police killing of George Floyd. 

    Nearly $10 million is included in the bill to help defray costs related to the rioting and arson that racked the Twin Cities metro, half of which is paid for by the trunk highway fund. The remainder is from the state’s general fund.

    The measure will authorize the state to borrow roughly $1.4 billion in the form of general-obligation funds, but it also includes about $100 million in housing funds.

    A tax bill included in the package would also provide cuts intended to help farmers, allowing them a tax deduction for certain property, and it would be retroactive to 2018. 

    Ricardo Lopez
    Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.