State Office Building now officially a campaign issue

State Office Building now officially a campaign issue

State Office Building now officially a campaign issue

Direct-mail political ads from a Republican-leaning independent expenditure group began arriving in the mailboxes of voters in at least eight Minnesota House districts where they consider Democratic incumbents to be vulnerable in the 2024 elections.

The latest mailers focus on the expense of the State Office Building renovation and expansion.

“This isn’t just about refurbishing an old building; it’s about constructing a … fortress for politicians who serve only part-time,” the mailer states. It goes on to tell voters to “Behold the taxpayers’ Taj Mahal. A $750 million palace, paid for by you!”

“Republicans are using the office building issue because it is a concrete example they can point to that they claim is exorbitant government spending,” says Carleton College political analyst Steven Schier.

He says it will be part of a campaign to win back the House by focusing on spending for the office building, higher taxes and a big increase in state spending that ballooned the state budget to $72 billion.

“What they’re going to say is, ‘See? Same old Democrats: big spenders, high taxes,’” Schier says.

The direct mail ads include some exaggerations. The cost is projected to be $500 million with up to another $230 million in interest on construction bonds. The ad says it will cost $750 million. The mailers also target individual lawmakers who didn’t have a vote on the final cost estimates. That was done by the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee, which is controlled by the DFL majority. No Republicans voted in favor.

Legislative leaders have sparred over the building’s cost for months.

“We have a building that’s crumbling,” House Majority Leader Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS last month. “It has had leaks and floods and mold problems.”

Republican House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth responded, “But I can tell you $729 million with both the bonds and the interest over 20 years is too much to be spending on an office building for 134 legislators.”

Construction began this week and is expected to be done by 2026.