To bond or not to bond — and how much to bond?

MARSHALL – Although this is not a bonding year, there is a possibility a bonding bill will pass in 2013, but putting a finger on just how much it could be is next to impossible at this point.

Dollar amounts of a potential bonding bill range from $110 million proposed by the Senate all the way up to an $850 million version put forth by the House.

Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal is closer to the House version at $750 million.

“It is unusual there would be that big of a spread, but it’s also unusual in a budget year that bonding is getting so much attention,” said District 16 Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls.

Dahms said the Senate’s version of the bonding bill is mainly for restoration at the state Capitol. The disparity in numbers, he said, likely signals that it’s nothing more than a negotiation tool.

“Yesterday (Thursday) there was some verbiage going around that (Senate Majority Leader) Tom Bakk was going for a $250 million bonding bill, but that’s not what the target shows, that’s not the version we’ve got to this point,” said Dahms. “I think that indicates there will be some negotiations going on.”

Of course, the city of Marshall has a stake in whatever happens. Both the MERIT Center expansion project and the regional amateur sports facility are seeking bonding dollars. Local supporters have testified in front of committees on behalf of the projects but got no real indication one way or the other over the prospects of the passage of a bonding bill.

The MERIT Center is seeking $2.5 million (it has already secured $1 million from previous bonding), while the sports complex is, for the third time, going after $4 million. Dayton’s proposal puts money toward civic center expansions, but nothing was included for Marshall’s projects.

A driving track at the MERIT Center – estimated to cost about $7 million – which could be used for a variety of training purposes, along with the sports complex, are both affected by a .5 percent general sales tax and a 1.5 percent food, beverage and lodging tax that passed on the Marshall ballot Nov. 6.

The measures for the MERIT Center and sports complex passed by 60 and 62 percent, respectively. The two local sales taxes would help pay for capital and operating expenses for the track and all or part of the costs of the new facilities at the sports complex. The sales tax applies to retail sales in the city of Marshall and does not apply to sales of motor vehicles.

The .5 percent sales tax went into effect Monday; the lodging tax will go into effect June 1, and the 1.5 percent food and beverage tax on July 1.

Dahms, a supporter of both projects, said Marshall has as good of a chance as any city to land some bonding dollars, but, “to be fair, it’s hard to say. You can read the tea leaves, and sometimes you’re right on, sometimes you’re not. If we spend bonding money, we want to make sure we get our fair share in rural Minnesota and our district. I’ve been supportive because I think both would be good for Marshall and for communities around Marshall.”

Sports center advocates have said the project will move on whether or not it receives help from the state. Getting bonding dollars would only enhance their plan and allow them to do some things they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to do.