ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Legislature's 2020 regular session came and went in May with legislators unable to agree on a traditional bonding bill before time ran out. Now in a special session, the clock is ticking again to agree on a final capital investment dollar amount, and negotiations appear stalled once again.
The Senate has vowed to adjourn this month's special session by a self-imposed deadline of Friday, June 19. As of Tuesday, the Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic-controlled House have yet to come to an agreement on a dollar amount for the bonding bill, by which the state loans money to fund capital infrastructure projects.
Republicans argue that amid nationwide economic hurt due to the coronavirus pandemic, the state needs to keep its debts low. Democrats contend that with interest rates low, the state's backlog of infrastructure needs growing and a historic number of Minnesotans unemployed, a robust bonding bill is the stimulus the state needs.
Gov. Tim Walz at a Tuesday news conference pressured the Legislature to wrap it up and come to an agreement. The Walz administration's own bonding proposal rings in at $2.6 billion -- a number he urges the Legislature to agree to, but one he said he would be willing to back off of if Republicans find it non-negotiable.
Andrew Wagner, a spokesperson for the House Republican caucus, tweeted on Tuesday that, "There are zero GOP votes for a bill that starts with a 2." Republicans have suggested $1.3 billion in bonding, and Walz said Tuesday that there is a "middle" between $2.6 and $1.3 billion.
At Tuesday's news conference, Sean Dowse, the mayor of Red Wing, said small Minnesota communities reeling from coronavirus economic fallout could benefit from bonding investments. In the short term, he said a large bonding bill would bring jobs back. In the long term, better infrastructure will help Greater Minnesota cities grow, he said.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has hit our community hard," Dowse said. "A bonding bill is one of the best tools the state has to stimulate the economy. ... We need the Legislature to pass a large bonding bill and we need it now."
Walz implored the Legislature on Tuesday not to adjourn until a complete bonding bill has reached the finish line, whether by Friday or later.