Already past their self-imposed deadline to leave the Capitol, state legislators are still working to finish two significant legislative components — a bill that funds construction projects and another for a new Vikings stadium.
The size and scope of a bonding bill has been talked about since the session began in January, but lawmakers are still working to agree and get one finished that would fund many statewide construction projects, including some at the University of Minnesota.
Jason Rohloff, the University’s special assistant for government relations, guessed the bonding bill wouldn’t be finalized until the Vikings stadium and an omnibus tax bill are dealt with.
Both the House and Senate’s proposals allocated $39 million for University construction projects. The University had sought $170 million from the state in its capital request, including $90 million to make repairs and improvements around campus, for which the House and Senate allocated $35 million.
Although legislators announced early in the session that they planned to adjourn in April, the state’s constitution allows lawmakers to stay until May 21.
If the legislative session stretched out, the deal would have to be made by then. But Rohloff predicted an agreement might be reached this weekend.
President Eric Kaler, Rohloff and chancellors of the other University campuses have been making appearances at the Legislature as often as possible to ensure that legislators keep the University in mind.
“Proposals are going back and forth,” Rohloff said of the bill’s size and the amount the University might expect. “We don’t know definitively what the amounts are. We are optimistic and hopeful.”
He guessed the final bill would come in at $500 million — give or take $100 million. The Senate’s latest bonding bill suggestion was set at $496 million, and the House had come up with a proposal of about $280 million.
“It’s going to have to be sized carefully,” Rohloff said.
Vikings drama continues
Throughout the more than three-month-old session, Gov. Mark Dayton and legislators have put forth and discussed different ways to construct and fund a new stadium for the team.
Now, near the end of session, no plans have stuck, and legislators are still putting new ideas on the table.
The latest idea from Republican lawmakers would combine the final two pieces, using money from the general fund in order to pay the state’s share of the stadium.
“This is a house of ideas,” said Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, a co-author on the Senate version of the earlier stadium bill, Monday. “And day by day, ideas emerge. And today we have a new idea.”
Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers said the new plan could be popular with more legislators, giving the stadium more votes.
“In concept, I do think this is a good idea based on how much member support it has,” Zellers said.
The team, the governor and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak reacted negatively to the last minute pitch — at least initially.
“I can’t take it seriously,” Dayton said. “It’s not a serious proposal to pass and be funded.” He criticized GOP leadership for “playing poker with thousands of Minnesota’s jobs.”
Rybak said Minneapolis would pull its support away if the new plan was approved.
But later in the day Wednesday, Dayton said he would consider the new proposal.
Both new and old plans involve building at the site of the current Metrodome. If approved, the Vikings would have to play for at least some time at TCF Bank Stadium.
DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk said, “Give us a vote on the floor of the Senate; that’s all the people of Minnesota want.”
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