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Video: MN Senate passes $1.9 billion construction and tax package

Oct 16, 2020 05:05AM ● By Editor

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The Minnesota Senate sent a $1.9 billion package of construction projects, tax breaks and spending to Gov. Tim Walz's desk, ending a six-month stalemate in the Legislature. Photo: KMSP-TV

By Theo Keith of KMSP-TV Fox 9 News - October 15, 2020

The Minnesota Senate sent a $1.9 billion package of construction projects, tax breaks and spending to Gov. Tim Walz's desk, ending a six-month stalemate in the Legislature.

The vote was 64-3, getting overwhelming support from both parties. All three votes against came from Republicans: Bruce Anderson of Buffalo, Michelle Benson of Ham Lake and Mark Johnson of East Grand Forks. The previous night, the House passed the bill and then adjourned, requiring the Senate to approve the measure as written -- without amendments -- or get nothing. 

The bill funds infrastructure projects across the state, provides tax incentives to businesses and farmers, and prevents two state prisons from closing. Supporters said it would juice the economy, as state economic data showed tens of thousands of Minnesotans gave up looking for work in September because of the recession.

"We don’t usually grow our economy that way, but right now I sincerely believe this is a jumpstart kind of bill and our state needs it," said state Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, the Senate's bonding chairman. 

A spokesman for Gov. Tim Walz said he expected the first-term Democratic governor to sign the bill next week.

“It’s been a long journey. By finally coming together and working across the aisle, Minnesota proved once again that if Washington won’t lead—we will," Walz said in an emailed statement.

The Senate debate pitted Republicans against Republicans. Some promoted the bill as a success story, while others said it was garbage.

"It’s akin to taking a chug from a gallon of milk and realizing it’s rancid and it automatically just naturally, impulsively expels from your mouth. You spit it out," said state Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, the Senate tax chairman, who voted yes anyway.

State Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, called it a "garbage bill" -- then voted for it, too.

The bill includes $1.37 billion in borrowing for public works projects around the state, including a new Kellogg Avenue bridge in St. Paul to replace a deteriorating span and a road-raising project in Henderson to mitigate frequent flooding. It has $12.5 million for a performance venue at the planned Upper Harbor Terminal project in Minneapolis.
 
It also allows businesses and farmers to get a tax break immediately on new equipment purchases. 

The measure includes $7.5 million that will keep two state prisons in Togo and Willow River open. Without an infusion of new cash, the Department of Corrections planned to close the facilities to plug a budget hole.
 
The bill also has $12.9 million to reimburse the Minnesota State Patrol, Department of Natural Resources, and Department of Transportation for their costs of responding to the springtime rioting in Minneapolis and St. Paul. It includes grant funding for programs targeting minority and lower-income groups, but does not have funding for businesses that got burned in the disorder.

"I’ve been getting some texts and tweets, they’re calling this a '(Minneapolis Mayor) Jacob Frey bailout bill,'" state Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, said, referencing the riot damage in Minneapolis. "Jacob Frey is not getting any money, personally or as a city."

The Senate vote came hours after the bill passed the House 100-34, with 25 Republicans joining all Democrats voting yes Wednesday night. The bill needed to start in the House because it contains borrowing and tax changes.
 
For months, GOP House members had held out, demanding Walz give up his emergency powers. Walz has not. Now, with Election Day fast approaching, the pressure mounted on Republicans to show they've been able to win construction projects for their districts.

Every Democratic lawmaker in both chambers voted for the legislation.

"This is well done and desperately needed in the state of Minnesota," said state Sen. John Hoffman, DFL-Champlin.


To see the original report and see related stories, follow this link to the KMSP-TV website. https://www.fox9.com/news/senate-passes-1-9-billion-construction-and-tax-package-sends-to-walz-after...

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