Gov. Tim Pawlenty's recent moves for political advantage -- both statewide and for his presidential campaign -- on the capital investment bonding bill hurt Willmar and Kandiyohi County.
While the bonding bill passed -- 89-44 in the House and 49-17 in the Senate -- with Republican help, the bill did not pass the Party of Pawlenty's test. The Legislature added $75 million to the bonding bill for projects Pawlenty wanted in order to get his consideration of the bill, but the governor vetoed another $350 million after negotiations were completed.
In the end, Willmar, west central Minnesota and the rest of rural Minnesota got the Pawlenty boot, instead of his help. In total, the governor line-item vetoed 52 projects in the bill.
First, Pawlenty negotiated for the inclusion of a project that had "not" been approved by either the House or Senate -- a $9 million expansion of the Minneapolis Veterans Home. The bonding bill skipped over the proposed Willmar Veterans Home, designed as a rural veterans mental health facility.
Apparently, Senate Assistant Minority Leader Joe Gimse, R-Willmar -- has little influence upon Pawlenty, a member of his own party, let alone the Senate's DFL-majority leadership. Gimse's lack of persistence or support on the proposed Willmar Veterans Home has been disappointing to many in the Willmar community.
This Willmar vet home proposal has passed the House multiple times in recent years under the direction of Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, but Gimse has failed to obtain Senate approval for this project.
Next, Pawlenty line-item vetoed a $14.3 million construction project at Ridgewater College. This project was vetoed despite the fact that Gimse wrote the governor and met with his staff personally seeking to keep the Ridgewater project in the bill. Apparently, Gimse again has little influence on the governor of his own party.
Even more shocking is the Legislature and Pawlenty had already approved the first phase of the Ridgewater project in 2008. This was not adequately communicated to the governor.
Finally, Pawlenty line-item vetoed the entire $21.4 million request for land acquisition and trail development in the state. This included $2 million for the recreation trail proposal from New London to Sibley State Park.
There is little hope for a second bonding bill as Gimse suggests. The animosity between this governor and this Legislature is far too great.
The Legislature will just wait out this lame-duck governor on bonding issues and place their bonding focus with the next governor in 2011.