Pawlenty trims public works bill
ST. PAUL - Flood prevention and recovery projects will be fully funded, but Gov. Tim Pawlenty trimmed a public works funding bill, saying legislators want to spend too much.
The bill originally proposed spending $361 million, with $300 million coming from funds the state would borrow. The governor cut one dozen projects totaling $85 million.
"The size of the bill was too big," Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said.
Many of the projects vetoed have merit, Pawlenty wrote in a letter to lawmakers late Saturday, but they should be considered in 2010 as part of a larger public works bill.
The remaining bill is responsible and focuses on maintaining existing infrastructure and leveraging matching federal funds, Pawlenty said.
Much of the money in the bill is going to repair state buildings, especially at colleges and universities.
The bonding bill provides $54.8 million for flood prevention projects, mostly in the Red River Valley. Another $17.6 million in cash and borrowed money will be used for flood recovery, in a large part matched by federal funds.
"These are important items that need to be funded this year," Pawlenty said.
Pawlenty's line-item vetoes fell mostly on new construction projects. Rejected projects include:
-- Lake Superior Community and Technical College health and science center addition, $11 million.
-- Mesabi Range Community and Technical College carpentry, industrial mechanical technology and shops addition, $5.3 million.
-- Red Lake school construction, $5.8 million.
-- University of Minnesota Bell Museum, $24 million.
-- Adding and improving classrooms at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system campuses in Moorhead, Wadena, Pipestone, Thief River Falls, Pine City, Rochester and Brainerd, $3.6 million.
-- St. Cloud and Mankato civic center projects and Minneapolis performing arts center.
Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said it is not responsible to cut the so-called bonding bill in a time when people need jobs.
"There are fewer jobs in Minnesota than there were six years ago," Langseth said about when Pawlenty took office.
Langseth, who heads the Senate public works funding committee, said that in the current recession, Minnesota needs construction jobs the bill would provide.
"This is the year we need the jobs," he said.
Langseth said he expects the bonding bill to create thousands of Minnesota jobs.
Rep. Alice Hausman, Langseth's House counterpart, called Pawlenty's line-item vetoes "exceedingly shortsighted and a missed opportunity."
Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, said in an economic downturn the state can take advantage of low interest rates and low construction bids.
"State Economist Tom Stinson told us clearly at the beginning of this session that a targeted, strategic bonding bill is one of Minnesota's most effective tools in putting our state on course for a stronger economic future," Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, said. "That's exactly what this bill does."
Among public works projects approved by Pawlenty:
-- University of Minnesota Morris demonstration solar thermal and photovoltaic systems, $350,000.
-- Duluth airport terminal upgrade first phase, $4.9 million.
-- Alexandria aircraft surveillance facility, $2 million.
-- Acquire land for veterans' cemeteries in Redwood County and northeast Minnesota, $500,000.
-- Chisholm regional competition and exhibit center, $750,000.
-- Port development, $3 million.
-- Commuter and passenger rail programs, $26 million, including $1.5 million to study Northern Lights Express between Twin Cities and Duluth.
-- Hastings veterans home asset preservation, $350,000.
State Capitol reporter Scott Wente contributed to this story.