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Pawlenty praises House plan

ST. PAUL - A Minnesota House public works package that spends $120 million less than senators' plan "is a step in the right direction," Gov. Tim Pawlenty said.

A House plan funding $247 million in construction and renovation projects saw its first action Tuesday and is set for a final committee vote today. A floor vote will follow in the coming days.

Pawlenty said he has budgeted just short of $200 million for a public works spending package this year, far less than the $367 million included in a Senate-passed version. The governor did not endorse the House plan, but said it is a good sign that representatives propose spending less and that they focus on maintenance projects.

"It's a more responsible bill in light of these challenging economic times," Pawlenty said.

The Republican governor said he will meet with public works chairmen Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, and Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, in the coming days to iron out differences "and get a bill on my desk that I can sign."

More sick leave

State workers who also are disabled military veterans could get extra sick leave under a bill sponsored by two Duluth lawmakers.

The bill by Rep. Roger Reinert and Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon, both DFL-Duluth, would allow state employees to apply for up to 40 hours more sick leave to treat military-related health issues.

A House committee approved the measure Tuesday, sending it to the House Finance Committee. It is being considered for a state government bill in the Senate.

Reinert said a Duluth veteran brought him the suggestion because he has to make a time-consuming commute to the Twin Cities for treatment.