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Published February 25 2010

Forum editorial: Bipartisan jobs bill still alive

A potentially productive parliamentary maneuver to save the Minnesota Legislature’s construction funding bill could be interpreted that DFL leaders blinked when Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he would veto the $1 billion bill. That would be the political spin – an interpretation that seems to fit with the partisan sniping that has characterized the relationship between the DFL majority and the Republican governor.

But a more charitable assessment of the leadership’s move goes to the genuine need for the legislation. The jobs-creating bill is so important to nearly every part of the state that it cleared both houses of the Legislature by large bipartisan margins. The public works projects the bill funds would mean good jobs in DFL and Republican districts. It would mean resources for prisons and funding for flood control projects. It also would provide funding for local projects to which the governor objects. Apparently jobs created by local projects in the cities where Minnesotans live and work don’t count in the governor’s view.

Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, leads the Senate effort on the public works bill. He said the extraordinary parliamentary maneuver (after all, the bill passed both houses) is an attempt to talk with the governor about what can be excluded and included in the bill in order to avoid a veto. The “cooling-off period” will allow time for both sides to revisit provisions of the bill that have drawn Pawlenty’s most strenuous objections.

The governor had planned to veto the bill Tuesday, but that did not happen because the bill was back in the Senate for that cooling-off period.

It’s possible the procedure employed by the Senate is an opening that could blunt the partisan head-banging that has characterized the relationship between the governor and the DFL majority in the Legislature. Bipartisan support for the bill also is a factor. Many Republicans like most of the bill and voted for it despite the governor’s veto threat. Compromise is in the hotly partisan legislative air. If Pawlenty, Langseth and other key players in this drama can cobble together a compromise, all will save face and the residents of Minnesota will win.

That’s more hope than expectation because the governor and his DFL antagonists have done little in the past couple of years to improve the lives of the people they purport to represent. The public works/jobs bill is an opportunity to do something right for Minnesotans. The governor and DFL leaders should shed their partisan/ideological blinders, dial down personal animosities and get it done.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.