Pawlenty chops $208 million from bonding bill – Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College land purchase cutST. PAUL – Gov. Tim Pawlenty used his line-item veto authority today to chop over $200 million from a public works construction bill the DFL-led Legislature sent him despite warnings it was too big.
By: Don Davis and Scott Wente, Forum Communication
ST. PAUL – Gov. Tim Pawlenty used his line-item veto authority today to chop over $200 million from a public works construction bill the DFL-led Legislature sent him despite warnings it was too big.
Republican Pawlenty carved the $925 million bill down to $717 million, stripping funding for public college and university projects, sports facilities projects, transit construction and other local projects.
Pawlenty has made it clear for weeks that he cannot accept the $925 million public works funding bill that lawmakers passed. He said he wanted to limit spending to $825 million in order to keep interest payments at a manageable level in tough economic times.
“It is irresponsible to exceed the ‘credit card limit’ that has been maintained by governors and legislators from both parties for the past 30 years,” Pawlenty wrote in his letter announcing that he signed the bonding bill, but removed funding for more than 50 projects.“
Projects that were removed include classroom renovations at the University of Minnesota campuses, including in Duluth, Crookston and Morris – and projects at the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system’s Lake Superior Community and Technical College and Mesabi Range Community and Technical College. Pawlenty also removed funding for a Moorhead sports center, emergency training facility in Gonvick, rail line from St. Paul to Duluth, Hibbing Memorial Building renovation.
Funding for events centers, including in Duluth and Bemidji, remained in the bill Pawlenty signed into law.
Public works projects across the state – such as constructing and repairing college buildings, erecting park facilities, cleaning up water and providing for events centers – are funded by the state selling bonds. Once the bonds are sold, and the proceeds spent on the projects, the state must begin paying off the bonds with interest, much like a person who obtains a bank loan.
With a tightening economy, the state is receiving less revenue from income and other taxes. In fact, the state faces a $935 million budget deficit, forcing lawmakers and Pawlenty to reduce the $34-billion, two-year budget they approved last year. Pawlenty says the state’s budget crunch means it can afford less interest.
In nearly every even-numbered year, a few months before the general election, legislators approve a bonding bill. This year, lawmakers begin with nearly $4 billion in requests to fund projects.
State law requires the state to bond only for projects of statewide importance, but lawmakers and governors often debate where that line is drawn.
“I am hoping the governor brings his ballpoint pen instead of his Sharpie veto marker,” House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said before Pawlenty took action, indicating she preferred a line-item veto of projects the governor did not want.
Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, hinted in a Minnesota Public Radio interview this morning that if Pawlenty decided to veto the entire bill, there may not be a second effort.
“I think we are focusing on balancing the budget now and then will go home,” Pogemiller said, adding that the Republican governor’s comments on bonding are “rhetorical flourishes” that go too far.
On the same radio show, Kelliher said it is important to make the bonding bill as large as can be afforded.
“The difference between 825 and 925 is at least 1,000 jobs,” she said.
Here are some items Pawlenty removed from the bill before signing it into law:
Hibbing Memorial Building renovations: $250,000
Moorhead volleyball center: $3 million
Rush Line transit: $500,000
Red Rock transit: $500,000
St. Paul to Chicago high-speed rail line planning: $4 million
Interstate 94 transitway, Washington County: $750,000
Northern Lights Express rail line planning: $1.5 million
Lake Superior Community and Technical College health science center addition: $11 million
Mesabi Range Community and Technical College shop space addition and renovation: $5 million
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system land purchases for Bemidji State University, Dakota county Technical College, Fond du Lac Tribal Community College, Minnesota State University Moorhead and Vermilion Community College: $8.8 million
Gonvick Public Safety Training Center design: $55,000
Red Lake School, Red Lake Indian Reservation loan: $16 million
Port development: $2 million