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Pawlenty rejects $334 million bonding bill

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed a $334 million public works construction package today, telling leaders of the DFL-controlled Legislature the bill is "simply too large."

"I have repeatedly communicated my expectations about the timing and the composition of the bill," Pawlenty wrote to House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis. "This situation is unfortunate and should have been avoided."

The Republican governor said he wants lawmakers to go back to work to produce a smaller bill that included at least flood aid for Browns Valley and money to expand the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. He said other emergency or items everyone can agree on could be included.

The governor said the measure should borrow no more than $135 million. He did not say how much cash he would accept lawmakers to spend in a new public works bill.

Pawlenty could have vetoed lines of the bill containing projects he didn't like, but said that would have created technical difficulties since nearly all the bill would have been erased. "We thought it would be cleaner and neater to veto the whole bill."

Sen. Keith Langseth, Senate chairman of the public works committee, said he is very disappointed with Pawlenty's action.

"We had everything he had talked about in the bill," said Langseth, DFL-Glyndon.

Langseth and House public works leader Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, said they did not know if they would produce a new public works bill.

"We will see what, if anything, will happen by the end of the session," Langseth said.

Legislators must adjourn by May 21.

However, one of the House Republican leaders said a new bill will surface.

"We'll be fine," Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, said.

House Minority Leader Marty Seifert told reporters that Pawlenty's veto sends a strong message: "Don't waste our time."

The chances that no bonding bill will be passed this session are "reaching 50-50," Seifert said.

"If greed outweighs need, you will see no bonding bill," the Marshall Republican said.

Seifert added that he hopes a stand-alone legislation providing aid to Browns Valley will be taken up Wednesday.

McNamara said there is no doubt House Republicans will be unified to reject any attempt to override Pawlenty's veto.

The message Langseth and Hausman delivered during a hastily called meeting with reporters to react to the Pawlenty did not include assurances that a new bill would come about.

The Democrats complained that Pawlenty wants his way on the public works bill, and does not seem willing to compromise.

"We would expect that he respect our point of view," Hausman said.

The Legislature on Monday sent Pawlenty the public works construction bill paid by borrowed funds and cash.

Pawlenty had proposed a roughly $70 million so-called bonding bill.

Included in the Legislature's bill was $37 million for the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center addition and aid to flood-damaged Browns Valley, which Pawlenty had included in his budget.

In odd-numbered years, bonding bills have traditionally funded only emergency projects and "consensus items," Pawlenty said.

The Republican governor had warned he would either veto the entire bill or eliminate specific projects in the bill.

The legislation agreed upon in the conference committee led by Langseth and Hausman was larger than the bills passed individually in both chambers.

Pawlenty last week questioned why his office was left out of decisions made by legislative leaders and the capital investment conference committee.

"The bill authorizes more than four times more spending on projects than I requested and is simply too large," Pawlenty wrote in the letter to Kelliher.