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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published March 16 2010

Pawlenty erases $313M from bill

ST. PAUL – Fifty-two public works projects across Minnesota fell victim to Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto pen Monday.

Legislative leaders say there is little chance lawmakers will send more projects to the governor before he leaves office early next year.

“He basically massacred the bill,” Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said of the measure commonly known as the bonding bill.

Pawlenty said he erased

$313 million in projects because the $1 billion bill legislators sent him spent too much.

“I am deeply disappointed the bill still spends nearly $1 billion despite my repeated and pointed warning that I would not sign a bill of this magnitude,” Pawlenty wrote to lawmakers.

Pawlenty used his authority to veto spending on specific projects.

“As usual, I have been left to reduce spending within the bill to an affordable level,” Pawlenty wrote. “The DFL-controlled Legislature seems incapable of prioritizing projects or simply saying no. So, I have again done it for you.”

Langseth and Rep. Alice Hausman of St. Paul, who lead legislative bonding committees, said they will not accept Pawlenty’s offer to bring forth a new, small bill to resurrect some of the vetoed projects.

“You can’t trust him,” Langseth said.

On a more practical level, Hausman added that she does not think she could get enough votes to pass a smaller bill because so many legislators would have nothing in their districts in the measure.

Langseth said legislative leaders put $75 million of Pawlenty’s projects in the bill to get the Republican governor’s support, but he still used his veto ax.

The bill contains money to expand the Moose Lake sex offender treatment center, expand a Minneapolis veterans home, beef up prison security and

$63.5 million to prevent floods. The bill also gives Pawlenty permission to buy land along Lake Vermilion to become a state park.

Many of Pawlenty’s vetoes were Minnesota Colleges and Universities system projects. Hausman said that said despite MnSCU’s enrollment being three times that of the University of Minnesota, Pawlenty erased enough projects so MnSCU will have about the same amount of money as the university.

Pawlenty vetoed 16 MnSCU projects, compared to two for the university.

Overall, the biggest veto was $43.5 million for Twin Cities transit projects.

Most recreation projects were vetoed, although Pawlenty did save a Rochester volleyball center and a Blaine women’s hockey project. He also killed three civic center expansions.

Pawlenty vetoed a $5.8 million project to renovate a Red Lake school, a project he said cost much more than lawmakers approved, so it should wait until money is available to do all needed work.

The exact value of vetoed projects changed a bit Monday as experts closely examined Pawlenty’s actions.

Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said the governor took action on the bill Sunday night, but the information was not released until Monday morning.

Pawlenty delivered a speech and vacationed in Florida late last week, returned to the Capitol on Sunday and went back to Florida for a political event Monday.

Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.