The Potluck

Walz anticipates Legislature will consider $1 billion to fund infrastructure projects next session

By: - October 23, 2023 4:25 pm

Gov. Tim Walz spoke about infrastructure investments ahead of the 2024 legislative session during a press conference at St. Paul College on Oct. 23, 2023. Photo by Michelle Griffith/Minnesota Reformer.

Gov. Tim Walz on Monday estimated that the DFL-controlled Legislature next year will consider a $1 billion infrastructure package to fund public works projects across Minnesota.

Earlier this year, the Legislature approved a $2.6 billion infrastructure package — the largest in state history — to fund projects like improving Minnesota’s roads, bridges and water treatment plants, among many others. The Legislature usually passes an infrastructure package during even years, but it could not agree to a bill in 2022.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said during the legislative session earlier this year that the historic 2023 package would merely help catch up from the lost year, and that lawmakers would likely seek another bonding bill in 2024. 

The package passed earlier this year included $1.5 billion in borrowing through bonds, requiring a legislative supermajority. About $1.1 billion was funded through cash. 

Republicans used their needed votes as leverage to stall the bill and advocate for more nursing home funding. Democrats and Republicans came to an agreement on the last weekend of the session, and Republicans nailed down an extra $300 million for nursing homes. 

Given the size of the public works bill this year, Republicans will likely drive a hard bargain in 2024, especially with 134 House seats up for election. 

Walz took a tour of St. Paul College on Monday, with administrators pointing out potential improvements, including more usable spaces for students. 

“Whether that’s roads and bridges, clean water infrastructure, or investments in modernizing our state’s higher education, a strong infrastructure plan creates jobs while helping ensure every community across Minnesota prospers,” Walz said Monday.

Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council President Dan McConnell said Monday that there was about $7.4 billion in requests for various projects across Minnesota.

Walz said he believes there’s bipartisan support for an infrastructure package, noting that members of both parties typically favor infrastructure improvements.

“It brings civic pride when you see a community, you see some of these projects stand up. It’s a good thing,” Walz said.

The state will release a budget forecast next month, including the state’s borrowing capacity. 

Sen. Karin Housley, R-Stillwater, who serves as Republican lead on the Senate Capital Investment Committee, said in a statement that Republicans want a fiscally responsible infrastructure package next session. 

“A bonding bill … needs to remain focused on infrastructure, safe water, and public safety,” Housley said. “There are many needs across the state, and Republicans will want to see a balanced bill that focuses on needs, not wants, without over-leveraging the state’s credit rating or financial future.”

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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.