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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published March 04 2010

Minnesota bonding bill negotiations hit new snag

ST. PAUL – It is time for Minnesota House and Senate leaders to get on the same page, the Senate’s chief public works negotiator says.

Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, went into a late Wednesday afternoon meeting expecting negotiators to agree on a framework of a new public works funding plan, but his House counterpart said after the meeting that negotiators have yet to agree on what should be in the bill.

That was news to Langseth, who said the two sides were within $5 million out of a nearly $1 billion measure.

Langseth said he sees the next step as getting leaders involved.

Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, hurried through the Wednesday meeting, allowing little committee discussion. She said she expects the bill to receive a final vote next week, but the House and Senate must agree first.

Hausman and Langseth agree that the public works bill, funded by the state selling bonds, would include Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s top priorities, including expanding a Moose Lake sex offender treatment facility. But, Hausman said, she is not sure her leaders can agree to that.

The public works bill funds projects ranging from fixing college buildings to constructing new trails. Legislators approved a measure nearing $1 billion, $300 million more than Pawlenty wants, but legislative leaders held up the bill to avoid a veto and allow negotiations to resume.

During the Wednesday meeting, Commissioner Tom Hanson of Minnesota Management and Budget said Pawlenty may agree to a bill that spends more than $725 million.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.