Lawmakers stunned by $313M cut from bill by Pawlenty
ST. PAUL -- Fifty-two public works projects across Minnesota such as college building renovations and state trails fell victim to Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto pen Monday, and legislative leaders say there is little chance lawmakers will send any more projects to him before he leaves office early next year.
"He basically massacred the bill," Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said of the measure co-mmonly known as the bonding bill.
Pawlenty erased $313 million in projects because, he said, 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 axe.
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 came to 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 that the university can spend.
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.
He also removed $21.4 million lawmakers voted to build trails around Minnesota.
"The governor's cuts will hurt many communities throughout the state who were looking to these trail projects to provide a much needed economic boost, vital outdoor recreation opportunities and health benefits for citizens," said Brett Feldman of the Parks and Trails Council.
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 had delivered a speech and vacationed in Florida late last week, returned to the Capitol Sunday and went back to Florida for a political event Monday.
Democrats often mentioned Pawlenty's absence, which they attributed to his being a potential 2012 presidential candidate.
"Governor, please come back to Minnesota to face the workers and students you are hurting with these vetoes," said Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, a governor candidate. "Unlike you, they can't afford a spring break vacation in Florida and they deserve some answers."
Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.