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Howes works on bonding bill

Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, is Gov. Tim Pawlenty's point man in public works bonding negotiations.

Howes is the lead Republican on the House Capital Investment Committee and serves on the capital bonding bill conference committee.

Pawlenty threatened to veto the $999.9 million bonding bill sent to him, so legislative leaders kept the bill - which now resides in the Senate - to allow for further negotiations. Howes and three legislative colleagues are working to reach a compromise in order to find one the Legislature and the governor can agree upon.

"I have been close to this situation throughout the process and have been working on shaping it into something that focuses on our priorities and has a modest price," said Howes in a statement. "It's paid off because this bill will be something that is good for Minnesota but is an affordable amount."

Pawlenty's bonding bill spent $685 million, but he has said he could move to $725 million.

Howes said that whatever the final dollar amount is, some people will say it's too large and still others will say it's too small. He said he anticipates the finished product to be in the $750 million range.

"We won't put the final stamp on anything the governor won't sign," Howes said. "A lot of the pork projects have been cut out and what we wind up with in the end will be a unanimous decision. The governor has asked me to serve as his point man in these discussions and offered me his full support. That's why it has been so important for me to vote for the bill in the early stages and remain involved in the process from beginning to end."

In addition to Howes, other negotiators are the two bonding chairmen - Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, and Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon - and Sen. Paul Koering, R-Fort Ripley.

Local projects at stake which were included in the final legislative bill include planning funds for a new Headwaters Science Center, construction funds for Red Lake School District improvements, Paul Bunyan Trail bridge in Bemidji and a new University of Minnesota research facility at Itasca State Park.

Howes said he thought the group may reach an agreement on a revised bill this week.