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Legislature passes bonding; Juhnke unhappy about veterans funding

ST. PAUL -- Republicans blasted a public works funding bill as being too expensive, but as the Minnesota House and Senate passed a revised measure Thursday a Democrat was the most critical of a bill written by his party members.

Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, complained about "the smelly underbelly of this bill," saying that legislative leaders violated their own rules when they gave money to a Minneapolis Veterans' Home expansion project and skipped over one in Willmar.

"At the end of the day, it becomes very easy, for some reason, to say yes to a $28 million project in Minneapolis and say no to a rural Minnesota veterans mental health facility," Juhnke said in an impassioned speech to fellow representatives.

The House passed the bill 89-44, with the Senate following 49-17. Gov.

Tim Pawlenty says he will erase individual projects from the bill, but has yet to say which ones.

Originally, Republican Pawlenty suggested a $685 million public works bill, funding things ranging from repairing state buildings to helping fund civic and sports centers in some communities. The bill the Democratic-control Legislature passed is just short of $1 billion.

Pawlenty has three days from the time the bill arrives on his desk to make decisions on what to cut.

Thursday's votes are the second for the two chambers. After the first public works bill passed, legislative leaders held onto the bill so further negotiations could proceed. However, public works negotiators said Pawlenty would not sit down with them, so they added his priorities and went ahead with the revised version.

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.