Institute close to major expansion

With only a few days left in the 2012 legislative session, the Minnesota House and Senate each passed a bonding bill Monday which includes the requested $13.5 million for The Hormel Institute’s expansion project to double its size and add about 125 jobs. Both bills were $496 million in size.

“[The Hormel Institute expansion] is very important not only for the city of Austin and southern Minnesota but to the entire state,” said Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, in a news release. “It creates jobs, but more importantly since cancer prevention and research is the scientists’ focus, we all win with this project.”

The capital investment bill, more commonly called the bonding bill, targets a wide range of projects across the state. Rep. Rich Murray, R-Albert Lea, said other aspects of the bill included money for the University of Minnesota, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, capitol building repair in St. Paul and $30 million for flood mitigation.

“I think we did it right,” Murray said. “This project had a lot of money in there for roads and bridges.”

The House version cleared 99-32 that afternoon, with the Senate following suit later in the day at 45-22. Murray, Poppe, and Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, all voted in favor of the bill. The bill required a 2/3 majority to pass, and Poppe said Democrats carried it in the House.

The Senate’s version differed slightly, with changes that Murray said were “pretty minor in nature.”

“The Senate put about four amendments onto the bill,” he said, adding the House would look at the changes today and decide whether to approve them or take the bills to a conference committee.

If the House accepts the Senate version of the bill as-is, it will move on to Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature.

Sparks said the Senate version included money for a few different items, including a flood wall in south St. Paul.

“We made a few exceptions,” he said. “Basically, it’s pretty much the same bill that the House passed.”

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