- Associated Press - Thursday, May 19, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - With time running out in the legislative session, Republican lawmakers in the Minnesota House failed Thursday to gain enough votes from Democrats to pass a measure that would borrow $800 million for public works projects.

It’s the latest sign of the broad divide between Democrats and Republicans. Earlier this session, Senate Democrats fell short of the required three-fifths majority of votes needed to pass their own $1.5 billion bonding bill.

The House proposal included $227 million for local road and bridge projects, $130 million for water infrastructure construction - such as wastewater and drinking water projects - and $137 million for higher education.

“This is kind of a plane jane bill, it doesn’t have a lot of fluff in it, there’s no nightclubs in this bill,” said Rep. Paul Torkelson, chairman of the capital investment committee responsible for assembling the bill. “This bill is full of the infrastructure that benefits everyone in the state of Minnesota.”

Democrats had been calling on House Republicans to release the details of their proposal since the Legislature must adjourn by Monday. The total of the public works package was larger than the $600 million that Republicans had previously suggested they would put forward.

House Democrats criticized the proposal Thursday that they said prioritized projects favorable to Republican districts and left out key projects for DFL members.

Rep. Alice Hausman, a St. Paul Democrat, said many projects, including higher education and housing projects, were left unfunded in the House measure. She said higher education funding, often used to repair and preserve buildings on campuses, usually makes up about a third of a bonding bill. In the House version it was about 16 percent of the total.

“What is funded is strikingly partisan,” she said.

A bipartisan committee including members from both chambers must now try to reach a compromise that can gain three-fifths support of members from each chamber before lawmakers must wrap up before midnight Sunday.

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