Walz unveils a $518 million public works spending, borrowing bill at new U health sciences building

    Gov. Tim Walz on Oct. 21, 2020 signed a $1.9 billion public works borrowing bill into law in St. Paul. Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer

    DFL Gov. Tim Walz on Monday unveiled a $518 million public works spending and borrowing plan at the University of Minnesota’s new health sciences building. 

    Walz briefly toured the nearly $110 million building, paid for in part by $67 million in state bonds approved by the Legislature in 2017 under previous Gov. Mark Dayton. 

    “This proposed bill makes the necessary investments so we don’t get so far behind,” Walz said Monday, arguing that the legislation would take care of buildings in need of repair.

    Among the projects included is $75 million to maintain older state buildings, state parks trails and recreational facilities; $43 million for Capitol complex security upgrades; and $150 million in bonds to help rebuild St. Paul and Minneapolis from last summer’s rioting and arson in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing. Republicans have already said they’re against the money for the Twin Cities, a reality that Walz acknowledged would make it difficult for him to win support.

    Walz said the security upgrades at the Capitol are not intended to be reactive and had been long in the works, saying the state needs a Capitol “that is safe and welcoming.” 

    Capitol security has taken on greater priority in recent months. Pro-Trump demonstrators used fiery rhetoric at a St. Paul “Storm the Capitol” rally on Jan. 6, the same day the U.S. Capitol was sacked by insurrectionists. 

    The State Capitol campus became the site of significant police and National Guard presence for two weeks after. 

    State legislators in October approved a nearly $1.9 billion public infrastructure borrowing bill, the largest in state history. It passed with strong bipartisan support, easily receiving more than a supermajority vote, which is required for legislation that authorizes the state to take on debt. 

    The DFL-led House has indicated it would like to see a sizable bonding bill approved this year, while Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, recently said a “small” bonding bill could become part of end-of-session negotiations.

    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.