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Bonding bill veto includes Red Lake

Gov. Tim Pawlenty's late Saturday night line-item veto of public works projects includes nearly $6 million for Red Lake schools.

The Republican governor trimmed $89 million and a dozen projects from the $361 million bonding bill which passed both houses of the Legislature with wide margins.

He red-lined a $5.78 million appropriation for the Red Lake School District as part of an ongoing building program of upgrading schools on the Red Lake Reservation.

The Red Lake School District recommended $59.211 million in 2008, to fund additions and renovations to school facilities that included renovating substandard facilities to promote student achievement, provide additional elementary education space due to enrollment growth and provide program specific space for special education and other specialty programming.

The 2008 Legislature awarded $16 million of the total, but Pawlenty vetoed it, saying the project was only partially funded with the allocation and that "this funding won't allow the project to go forward unless it was more fully funded."

This year, a bill authored by Rep. Brita Sailer, DFL-Park Rapids, asks for $5.781 million "to design, construct, renovate, furnish and equip the middle and high school facilities at the Red Lake School District."

Pawlenty didn't give a veto message specific to Red Lake, but said he was "disappointed the bill was finalized without being negotiated to conclusion with my administration."

His scope of a bonding bill, as he stated in a letter to the capital investment conference committee, was that "1) maintaining existing buildings rather than constructing new ones; 2) funding projects that leverage available federal matching dollars; and, 3) remaining fiscally responsible."

The bill, he said, did not meet those standards. "While many of the vetoed projects are meritorious, they should be considered next year as part of the larger, regular bonding bill."

Most of Pawlenty's vetoes were to education, said Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, chairman of the House committee dealing with higher education.

"As in years past, the governor targeted specific regions of the state for his vetoes, including St. Paul and the Iron Range," he said.

Items vetoed included a $5 million project at Mesabi Range Community and Technical College in Eveleth for carpentry and industrial mechanical technology shops. It was the second year in a row Pawlenty vetoed that project, Rukavina noted.

Of the $88.5 million in vetoes, $38 million were for projects to improve Minnesota colleges and universities.

Rukavina said, "Gov. Pawlenty lived up to his reputation as the 'no new jobs' governor. I am so most disappointed for the students at Mesabi Range Community Technical College. This project would have moved students back to the Eveleth campus and improved their educational experience."

Pawlenty also red-lined $3.625 million for classroom renovations at several Minnesota State Colleges and Universities campuses, $2 million for early childhood learning and child protection facilities and $24 million for the Bell Museum of Natural History.

Among the vetoes were also $6.5 million for a Mankato Civic Center expansion, $2 million for the Shubert Arts and Education Center and $3 million for the St. Cloud Civic Center expansion.

"It's sad that the governor would harm students trying to get a good education and a good job just because he doesn't agree with the political views of his opponents," Rukavina charged. "He's been petty before, but I would have hoped that in the worst economic recession in over 20 years and record unemployment he would have been bigger than that."