Feb 12, 2024 - News

Everything you need to know about Minnesota's "bonding bill"

Illustration of a hundred dollar being built by construction vehicles. 

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The phrase "bonding bill" will be bandied about a lot at the Minnesota State Capitol over the course of this year's 14-week legislative session.

Why it matters: The legislative package, also known as a capital investment bill, allows state agencies, local communities, universities, and other entities to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for public and private construction projects.

How it works: The bill authorizes the state to take on debt to finance construction projects.

  • The debt comes in the form of bonds that are sold to investors. As part of that process, the state agrees to pay back the money, with interest, over time.
  • Supporters argue the approach allows the state to spread the cost of major projects over many years and generations of taxpayers.

What gets funded: Often, the money goes to expensive but important infrastructure needs — think bridge upgrades and water treatment plants.

  • But community projects, including arts centers, emergency shelters, and curling clubs, have also gotten cash in the past.

The catch: Capital investment bills need a three-fifths majority to pass, which translates to 81 votes in the House and 41 in the Senate, meaning bipartisan support is a must.

The intrigue: That dynamic, plus pressure lawmakers feel to deliver projects for their home communities, can make the bonding bill a crucial chip in negotiations for other issues, especially for the minority.

  • "We know that this is our only opportunity to really have a big influence on a bill's outcome," Senate GOP Leader Mark Johnson said last week. "Maybe we can use that for other fixes that Minnesota has been asking for."

Of note: Bonding bills are traditionally put together in non-budget sessions, or even numbered years. But lawmakers passed a record $2.58 billion package last year.

  • Still, capital investment chair say they had a long list of requests.

What to expect: These bills often include a cash component, but leaders say that will be a relatively small part of the total package this year due to the state's financial outlook.

What we're watching: Gov. Tim Walz proposed a $982 million bonding package ahead of the session.

  • Republican leaders told Axios they don't yet have a position on the total size of the package, but want to see it focused on essentials like wastewater treatment and roads.
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