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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published March 11 2010

Pawlenty ‘can work with’ bonding bill

ST. PAUL – Gov. Tim Pawlenty is looking at ways to chop a public works funding bill down to size and how to expand a sex offender facility on the cheap.

Pawlenty on Wednesday said he plans to sign a public works bill, which the House and Senate likely will pass today. He added he will trim the nearly $1 billion spending bill by eliminating recreation, arts and local projects that he does not feel should be funded by state government.

The top Republican House public works negotiator predicted Tuesday night that Pawlenty either would veto the entire bill or dramatically decrease its size. On Wednesday morning, Pawlenty said he decided to use his line-item veto power to reduce spending.

“The bonding bill incorporates most of our key priorities,” Pawlenty said. “It is a bill we can work with.”

In hopes that he would sign the bill, Democratic public works negotiators included Pawlenty’s major projects: expanding a sex offender treatment facility in Moose Lake, improving security at prisons, fixing the Minneapolis Veterans Home and allowing the purchase of land along Lake Vermilion for a state park.

It also spends $63.5 million for flood prevention projects, which Pawlenty said would remain in the bill. He made that comment Wednesday after surveying Moorhead’s work in fighting an expected flood this spring.

Back in St. Paul later in the day, the governor said he has not decided what projects he will remove from the public works bill, which is funded by the state selling bonds. He repeated his feeling that the Moose Lake facility, prison and other public safety issues take priority over arts and recreation projects.

Pawlenty said he will trim the bill to “something more reasonable and responsible and affordable.”

Legislators were relieved to know Pawlenty’s plans, even if they do not agree with what he will do.

“It’s better news than we have had,” said Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon.

The full House and Senate are to vote on the bonding bill today, expecting Pawlenty to quickly veto individual items he does not want.

Langseth said he wants Pawlenty to be careful about trimming the bill. “I hope he gives his pen a rest.”

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.