St. Paul, Minn. – The Minnesota Legislature on Sunday, May 20 approved a $825 million appropriation of general obligation bonds to finance public construction projects (House File 4425). Senator Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth), who voted “no” on the bill, today released a detailed list of his objections.
“After lawmakers push the green or red button when voting on a bill, I think it’s important that we communicate in no uncertain terms to the people who elected us why we voted the way we did,” said Sen. Simonson. “To that end, I am sharing a list of my specific objections to the 2018 bonding bill.”
Although the bonding bill included funding for some Duluth area projects that I support, Republicans’ decision to exclude language and funding to establish a medical exchange district for Duluth was a serious error in judgment. The economic uncertainty this decision inflicts upon Duluth is unacceptable to me.
Republicans dictated the contents of the bonding bill from beginning to end. It got vetted and negotiated with Governor Dayton’s administration, but people like me did not get a seat at the table. Bonding bills require a supermajority to win approval, so for Republicans to shut out their colleagues on the other side of the aisle throughout the entire process was not a smart decision.
The medical exchange district fiscal note indicated zero cost to the state in their current biennium, meaning this initiative did not impact Republicans’ demand to limit general obligation bond appropriations to $825 million. Republicans provided no substantive reason for excluding the medical exchange district from the bill.
Republican Senator David Senjem, who chairs the Capital Investment Committee, represents the city of Rochester, which received hundreds of thousands in public subsidies in 2013 to construct its “Destination Medical Center.” This occurred at a time when DFL lawmakers controlled the House, Senate, and Governor’s office. To deny Duluth the same opportunity for economic growth at a much lower cost is downright shameful.
The bonding bill became the only legislative “vehicle” to put into state statute this year a voter-approved plan to repair Duluth’s streets. By excluding from the bill our locally-made decision to increase our own sales tax, Republicans are ignoring the will of 76% of Duluthians who voted for change in last November’s ballot referendum.
“I voted no – if for no other reason than to send a clear message that the process is broken – and that partisanship and politics are now driving our infrastructure investments,” added Sen. Simonson.
To watch video of remarks about the bill made by Sen. Simonson on the Senate floor, click here. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 42-25 and the House by a vote of 113-17. Governor Dayton now has the option to sign the bill into law.