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Bonding cuts came without negotiation

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opinion Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

I am in my second year in the state Legislature and I can confirm that the making of sausage and legislation may not always be pretty.

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Actually, I've made sausage and find the legislative process much more challenging, at least in these times. The recent bonding bill is a good example. The House and Senate spent months selecting projects based on job creation of both long- and short-term import, and made every effort to include all regions of the state.

When the governor promised to veto the entire bill, we pulled it back, added some projects the Republican governor wanted and asked the governor for a list of projects he would like to see eliminated. The governor did not produce such a list so the bonding committee made their best judgments and sent Gov. Pawlenty a final bill.

Predictably, the governor cut $300 million (aka 7,000 jobs) out of the bonding bill. No negotiations, at least not with Democrats, just cuts, even below the level of his original proposal.

Major projects were lost for Bemidji -- the Headwaters Science Center, a significant loss to children and education across the region, and funding for the Paul Bunyan Trail bridge over Highway 197.

This bridge is a well-recognized public safety issue for our community and tourists, and I find it very disturbing it was so casually vetoed.

Also predictable was Republican Rep. Larry Howes receiving funds for his Shingobee trail project. It probably helped Rep. Howes that he spoke out against me a couple of weeks ago while sticking up for the governor on bonding issues.

We have witnessed this governor's lack of concern over public safety before, and on a much larger scale. Only after the Minneapolis I-35 bridge collapse in 2007 were we finally able to override the governor's veto of a transportation funding bill. This veto override allowed Minnesota access to federal matching funds, funds that were sitting there waiting for Minnesota to use for our known critical bridge and road repairs statewide.

Now, it's a public safety issue regarding a trail bridge in Bemidji, and the Republican governor apparently prefers snowmobilers to play chicken with cars and trucks on the busiest road into the city. Our governor's continued poor public safety decision-making is indeed a concern.

Since Republican Pawlenty has been in office, we have seen repeatedly what his failure to negotiate has cost us -- thousands of jobs, health care for the poorest and sickest Minnesotans, and over $3 billion in higher property taxes, to name just a few.

Time and time again, this Republican governor's failure to work with the DFL majority in the Legislature has hurt Minnesota. We'll soon find out the state Supreme Court's opinion on the governor's mid- term unallotment decisions.

John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, is a member of the Minnesota House.

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