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Governor deletes Bemidji from bonding bill

The Bemidji area batted zero with Gov. Tim Pawlenty in is 2010 public works bonding bill released Friday.

None of the projects on the request list, including Bemidji State University's Business Department renovation or a new Headwaters Science Center, made the governor's list.

"That's nothing -- it just the start," Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, who heads the House's higher education panel, said in an interview Friday while he was on the BSU campus.

"Both the House and Senate will have bonding bills, and we'll pass one of them, unless he wants to veto that too," said Rukavina.

House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said Thursday night in Bemidji that she wants the bonding bill to be one of the first bills out of the Legislature, hopefully within weeks after it begins Feb. 4.

Pawlenty's bill would bond for $685 million, or $815 million when user-financed bonds, trunk highway bonds, University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities bonds, and cash amounts are included.

"We have enough work for a $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion bill," he said,, adding that he was disappointed that the governor's bill sets aside only 30 percent for higher education when it usually is split with 50 percent going to higher ed infrastructure.

He was also disappointed that Pawlenty set aside only $50 million for college HEAPR, or building repair and maintenance, when MnSCU asked for $110 million.

Pawlenty denied BSU's request for $3.425 million in planning and design funds to renovate Hobson Union into a new home for the Business Department and addition. The total project approaches $20 million.

Also missing from the governor's budget is $13 million toward a new $26 million Headwaters Science Center.

"That was expected," Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji, said Friday. "They have a good proposal but it's not quite ready yet. I'll be meeting with them before the session starts to develop a financial strategy - they have none now."

Other than a promise to seek grants and the will to start a community fund drive for donations, the Headwaters Science Center has no plan in place to raise the $13 million match to the state funds.

"I want the project to get a hearing this session so the project is on everyone's radar screen, but to get funding this year is a long shot," Olson said.

The Republican governor also redlined a $1.992 million Beltrami County request toward a nearly $4 million jail renovation and efficiency project. It includes upgrading the jail with the latest electronics and renovating the 25-year with better and more efficient kitchen space and a video visiting center.

"We knew it would be an uphill battle," County Administrator Tony Murphy said Friday.

Olson said a hearing has been set to hear the proposal, with Sheriff Phil Hodapp slated to testify. "It's hard to justify this as a regional project, but we at least want a hearing on it," she said. "We're hoping to get some federal money, since federal prisoners are housed there when arrested."

The governor's bonding list also did not include $1 million for the Paul Bunyan Trail bridge over that trail for the city of Bemidji.

"It's just tough," Olson said. "Bemidji did well in recent years, especially now with the Bemidji Regional Event Center, and that will be hard to repeat," Olson said. "Legislators know we got some big projects before."

The governor also zeroed out the Red Lake School District's request for $36.78 million request to upgrade and renovate school buildings in Red Lake.