Positioning is fast and furious on bondingGov. Tim Pawlenty’s promised veto of a public works funding bill passed this week was held up because legislative leaders used a rare parliamentary maneuver to hold on to the bill a bit longer.
By: Forum Newspapers, Lake County News Chronicle
Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s promised veto of a public works funding bill passed this week was held up because legislative leaders used a rare parliamentary maneuver to hold on to the bill a bit longer.
The Republican governor agreed to meet with chief Democratic negotiators on the bill, which passed the House and Senate Monday night, but there were plenty of words hurled from both sides to indicate an agreement is anything but assured.
Just before debate on the nearly $1 billion bill began Monday night, Republican Pawlenty said he would veto it for being too costly and not including important projects. The bill passed anyway, mostly on Democratic-Farmer-Labor support, and it was expected to land on his desk Tuesday.
In a move House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, called “a-typical” and “somewhat extraordinary,” lawmakers exercised rules that allow them to return the bill to the Senate for an unknown period of time as a “cooling off period.”
Sen. Keith Langseth, head of the Senate public works committee, said the procedure was begun to convince Pawlenty to talk about what projects should be included in the bill.
In a letter to Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, and his House counterpart, Pawlenty said he gave lawmakers his public works proposals on Jan. 15 and sticks by them.
“I am also willing to consider adding or subtracting projects from my recommendations in an effort to reach a compromise,” he wrote.
At a Tuesday news conference, Pawlenty said the public works bill funded too many projects that local communities should handle, such as sports facilities and local government buildings.
Since Pawlenty agreed to meet with Langseth and Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, the unique legislative stalling tactic appeared to work.
Langseth said he hopes negotiations with the governor’s office can occur yet this week, although a new bill likely will not pass until March.
Kelliher called on the governor, who returned from several days in Washington, D.C., to provide specific projects and funding amounts he wants inserted and removed from the current bill and called on him to actively negotiate an agreeable alternative.
“I think it’s fair to say the governor had been out of town for a number of days,” Kelliher said. “Maybe he did not understand how quickly the bill was moving. So we want to give him a fair opportunity to give us the specific things, the specific spending amounts that he wants to put into the bill and identify where the legislative priorities don’t match what he thinks are priorities. That has to be specific.”
Pawlenty argued for a $685 million bill with several items the Legislature left out of its version, especially $89 million to expand a Moose Lake sex offender treatment center.
Pawlenty spelled out four projects he wants to see in the bill in his veto letter:
- $89 million to expand a Moose Lake sex offender treatment center.
- $10 million for upgrading the state’s highest-security prison in Oak Park Heights.
- $9.5 billion to improve the Minneapolis veterans’ home.
- Language to allow the state to spend $18 million for a state park along Lake Vermillion.
Kelliher called on Pawlenty to provide more specifics so both sides can hash out a deal.
The speaker, who is running for governor, emphasized that the bill, funded by the state selling bonds, would bring more than 20,000 jobs to the state.
“To be able to accomplish this we need to be able to get that done as soon as possible. But we need some specific information for the governor as well.”
The House voted 85-46 for the bill Monday night and the Senate followed 47-19.
Langseth said he would expect another attempt at a bonding bill, but as chairman of the Senate committee in charge of public works projects he said that he did not know how that would go.
The governor claimed that lawmakers’ priorities are “misguided” because the bill “leaves out funding for important public safety and veterans’ projects.”
“Despite failing to fund these key priorities, the bill contains money for improvements in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, enhanced snowboarding and snow tubing facilities at Theodore Wirth Park, various sports facilities and civic center, trail enhancements and other local earmark projects,” Pawlenty wrote.
The bill would fund projects ranging from new civic centers to college building repairs, and Democrats claim more than 20,000 jobs would be created. The bonding bill is the Democrats’ major job-creation proposal.
About a third of the bill funds work on college and university campuses state-wide, mostly repair and renovation work, with some additions and new buildings sprinkled in.
It also would put $63.5 million into flood fighting, mostly Red River Valley projects.
The bill also spends $67 million for replacing and repairing bridges.
The bill is a compromise between similar bills earlier passed by the House and Senate. Legislative leaders promised to have the bill passed by February’s end.
“We are going to build a $3.5 million sports center in Moorhead: A sports center while families are trying to pay their bills,” said Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Wabasha.
The legislative vote fell pretty much along party lines, with Democrats generally supporting it. Rep. Bill Hilty, DFL-Finlayson, and Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, voted against the measure. The Moose Lake facility is in their districts.