DFL state lawmakers appear to have at least one GOP ally in their quest to pass a bill to fund construction projects in 2014: St. Cloud Sen. John Pederson.
Pederson told the Times he’d likely support a construction projects bill based on the proposal offered by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton last week. The $986 million proposal includes more than $44 million for two St. Cloud projects: an expansion of River’s Edge Convention Center and renovations at Minnesota Correctional Facility-St. Cloud.
Key Republican lawmakers bristled at Dayton’s proposal, saying it’s over-sized and includes unnecessary projects.
Pederson, who’s on a Senate panel that oversees construction projects, said he’d prefer a measure in the $500-million-to-$600-million range. Yet Pederson said he’d likely support Dayton’s proposal because of its inclusion of $11.56 million for the River’s Edge expansion and $32.5 million for St. Cloud prison.
“I’m just not willing to take the risk of losing the economic impact for our local community,” Pederson said.
Even though DFLers, who generally support Dayton’s proposal, control the Legislature, Republicans will help decide the fate of it or any other bill to borrow, or bond, for construction projects. That’s because bonding bills to fund construction projects require three-fifths support from lawmakers, meaning eight GOP representatives and four GOP senators would have to back a bill if all DFLers do.
Pederson predicts bonding bill backers won’t struggle to get support from four Republican senators, though he said eight Republican House votes could be a tougher get.
Dayton’s proposal, issued Wednesday, was the opening volley in a bonding debate between the governor and lawmakers that will play out in 2014. Minnesota lawmakers typically have passed large bonding bills in even-numbered years.
Pederson said his support for any bonding bill is likely to hinge on whether it includes funding for River’s Edge. City leaders want to complete a second-phase expansion of the center that would include building a 300-stall parking ramp.
The project has broad support from business and community leaders in St. Cloud, Pederson said. He feels the project’s backers have been “mistreated” by the Legislature, which allotted $2 million for the expansion in 2008 but since has panned the city’s requests for more money to complete it.
Yet Pederson feels that pattern could change in 2014.
“I am optimistic,” Pederson said. “The first step is getting in the governor’s proposal.”