Rep. Martin Sabo (D-Minn.) in 2006. (Craig Lassig/AP)

Martin O. Sabo, a low-key Minnesota Democrat who rose to House Budget Committee chairman over 28 years in Congress, died March 13 at a hospital in Minneapolis. He was 78.

His daughter, Karin Mantor, confirmed the death. She said her father, a longtime smoker who was on oxygen, had been hospitalized for a week because he was having trouble breathing. He had pneumonia, Mantor said, but the immediate cause was not known.

Mr. Sabo was speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives before winning election to the U.S. House in 1978. He continued to handily win reelection until announcing his retirement in 2006. He was succeeded by fellow Democrat Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the House.

Politicians praised Mr. Sabo, a Norwegian Lutheran, for his understated manner and ability to deliver millions of dollars to the Twin Cities for road and housing projects, including the Hiawatha Avenue light-rail line and the Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center.

Gov. Mark Dayton (D) said Minnesota has important infrastructure projects because of Mr. Sabo’s senior position on the House Appropriations Committee.

The Martin Olav Sabo Bridge, a 215-foot-long suspension bridge for bicyclists and pedestrians in Minneapolis, is named in his honor.

In announcing his retirement, Mr. Sabo called putting together the 1993 federal budget as House Budget Committee chairman one of his proudest accomplishments.

Martin Olav Sabo was born in Crosby, N.D., on Feb. 28, 1938. He was a 1959 graduate of Augsburg College in Minneapolis and then spent 18 years in the Minnesota House. He was minority leader before being named speaker in 1973.

Mr. Sabo also took pride in never publicly disparaging another politician.

“I’ve always believed the fundamental problem with politics today are people who over-promise and overstate. I’ve tried to do the opposite,” he said. “I’ve also tried to treat my colleagues with respect. I don’t recall ever making a public statement critical of my colleague, whether it’s Democrat or Republican.”

He married the former Sylvia Lee, and they had two daughters. A list of survivors was not immediately available.

— Associated Press