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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published February 18 2010

Negotiations on bonding bill to begin soon

ST. PAUL – House and Senate public works funding negotiations could start as early as today, with a goal of sending a completed bill to the governor this month.

But two key legislators emerged from a meeting with Gov. Tim Pawlenty Wednesday night saying they remain far from an agreement with him.

Chairmen of legislative committees drawing up public works bills emerged from the half-hour meeting with Republican Pawlenty and said they learned nothing new. Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, and Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, said they could wrap up legislative negotiations next week, and send the bill to Pawlenty.

“He’d like us to go down and we would like him to go up,” Langseth said about funding levels.

Langseth and Hausman said the governor gave them no clear direction other than to cut down the bill and eliminate projects not of statewide importance.

“Without clear direction (from the governor), you end up negotiating with yourself,” Hausman said.

The House and Senate bills are similar, although they spend money differently.

Pawlenty’s spokesman Brian McClung said the governor would consider a bill as large as $725 million. Pawlenty’s proposal is for $685 million public works spending.

One of the meeting’s results was that legislative leaders heard firsthand that the governor wants the bonding bill pared down. “The Legislature has been duly warned,” McClung said.

The bills fund projects such as state building repairs and new construction, as well as trail improvements and sewer systems.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.