Bonding leaves lawmakers optimistic, Pawlenty upset
The main job of Minnesota legislators this year - funding a package of public works projects - may not be so hard after all. House Republicans unveiled a bill Tuesday that would spend nearly as much as Senate Democrats already approved. Differenc...
The main job of Minnesota legislators this year - funding a package of public works projects - may not be so hard after all.
House Republicans unveiled a bill Tuesday that would spend nearly as much as Senate Democrats already approved. Differences remain, but there is optimism that they are can be bridged.
"The Senate bill was met with a lovefest and I think the House bill will be met with a lovefest," said Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-Minneapolis.
House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, predicted 110 of the House's 134 members will vote for the bill when it is debated a week from today. After that, a House-Senate conference committee can begin working out differences.
The House bill would borrow $949 million to be repaid by general tax dollars. When other forms of funding are included, its public works bill nearly reaches $1 billion, while the Senate equivalent tops that mark.
The Senate approved a bill borrowing $990 million, but Gov. Tim Pawlenty only wanted $881 million.
After spending the morning looking over flooding near the Red River and most of the afternoon in a Pardon Board meeting, Pawlenty said he had not had a chance to look over the House proposal, but said it would spend too much.
"I am somewhat taken aback by the size of the bill," he said.
Pawlenty said he reserves the right to veto individual items to keep spending under control. "Somebody has to be the adult."
Chairman Dan Dorman of the House Capital Investment Committee said the size of the bill is pretty big for his Republican colleagues. However, a public works bill - which is funded by the state selling bonds - needs Democrat and Republican support to pass, so it ended up big enough to please many people.
It is just $41 million smaller than the Senate version, but Sviggum said it is small enough.
"It doesn't max out the credit card as does the Senate bill," he said.
Chairman Keith Langseth of the Senate Capitol Investment Committee praised the House bill.
"I think it's encouraging," he said. "It is not setting up much of a confrontation. ... They did set it up so it could be worked out."
The House bill includes $10 million more for local roads and another $10 million more for local bridges than the Senate-passed measure.
Dorman said his bill sends 35 percent of its money to rural Minnesota, 30 percent to the Twin Cities and 35 percent to statewide projects.
Like the Senate bill, Dorman's bill features state colleges and universities. Both give more money to the mostly rural Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.
"We went down as far as we could on the MnSCU list," Dorman said.