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Agreement is reached on bonding bill, though veto likely

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty will veto a public works funding bill a House-Senate committee approved Tuesday, a Republican lawmaker told his colleagues.

The main point of contention is money for a Moose Lake sex offender facility. Pawlenty wants $89 million and the Democratic-controlled Legislature is offering $47.5 million. The total bill would spend almost $1 billion.

Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, said that the governor's office told him Pawlenty could accept $60.5 million for the facility, but the entire bill likely will be vetoed at the level the committee approved.

Howes offered another potential scenario: Pawlenty could veto all of the bill except $63.5 million for flood prevention.

Howes tried to amend the bill to include the Moose Lake money, but the motion failed.

The new bill, funded by the state selling bonds, is due for House and Senate votes on Thursday unless Pawlenty and legislative public works negotiators work out a compromise. No talks are planned.

Thursday will be the second time lawmakers have voted on a bonding measure. After the first one, which contained no Moose Lake money, legislative leaders held the bill back, hoping for further negotiations. When they did not occur, lawmakers added the $47.5 million in hopes that Pawlenty would sign the bill.

Pawlenty'soffice did not respond to requests for comment on the Tuesday night action, including why he needs $89 million.

The Senate'stop public works negotiator, Glyndon Democrat Sen. Keith Langseth, said Pawlenty has not compromised since he offered his bonding proposal nearly two months ago. Compromise is what happens in a democracy, Langseth added.

Lawmakers said they do not understand why Pawlenty thinks he needs $89 million for Moose Lake, and they cannot get answers from the administration. When a Pawlenty aide offered to testify about that on Tuesday night, Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, would not recognize him.

Rep. Loren Solberg, DFL-Grand Rapids, said he does not know the difference between the plan today and one four years ago that was listed as costing $47.5 million. He said he could support the proposal if he were convinced that much money is needed.

There was no indication about how lawmakers and Pawlenty would proceed if the new bonding bill is vetoed.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.