GOP shuffle frustrates Urdahl

ST. PAUL -- Rep. Dean Urdahl stuck with most of the House GOP Caucus in voting to sustain Gov. Tim Pawlenty's transportation veto - and was subsequently named lead Republican on an agriculture committee.

ST. PAUL -- Rep. Dean Urdahl stuck with most of the House GOP Caucus in voting to sustain Gov. Tim Pawlenty's transportation veto - and was subsequently named lead Republican on an agriculture committee.

Urdahl, R-Grove City, accepted the position offered by House Minority Leader Marty Seifert of Marshall, but said he then had second thoughts. While he voted against the transportation spending package, Urdahl said he did not think the six House Republicans who helped put it into law should be punished. Seifert removed those six from committee and leadership positions.

"I've never seen anything like this," Urdahl said.

Urdahl replaced Rep. Rod Hamilton of Mountain Lake as the top Republican on the Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Committee.

"We can't have the committee without a (Republican) lead, so I'll remain, but I will urge, and have, that Rod be reinstated," Urdahl said.


Urdahl said he did not expect that to happen.

"I wanted to be on record that I didn't like this," he said. "I don't think people should be punished for votes of conscience."

State bonding debate nears

The House and Senate both should debate public works funding bills in coming days, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty may see the result on his desk not long after that.

But there are signs getting the so-called bonding bill passed will not be pretty.

After Thursday's prediction of a deepening budget deficit and Monday's passage of a transportation funding bill that includes bonding money, Pawlenty insisted that no more than $825 million be borrowed. But the senator in charge of that chamber's public works plans, Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said he plans to stick with the previously agreed-to figure of $965 million. The House will come up with its number Monday.

Pawlenty and Langseth don't agree on how much a state rule allows them to borrow. Besides, Langseth said, those projects are needed now.

"When we are in a recession is when we get the most bang for the buck," Langseth said.


Pawlenty pledges to veto hockey arenas and other projects that he considers lower priority. Langseth wants those arenas, such as ones in Bemidji and Crookston. An arena addition to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center appears to be on everyone's list to pass.

Langseth is pessimistic he will reach a compromise with Pawlenty.

House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said she hopes to reach a deal with Pawlenty so the House does not need to try to override vetoes of any projects.

The bonding bill could be debated in the Senate Tuesday or Wednesday, while the House could deal with it on Thursday. However, leaders of both houses say the schedule is tentative.

Budget changes coming soon

Pawlenty plans to give lawmakers his proposals for budget changes by mid-week in light of Thursday's prediction of a worse budget deficit than earlier expected.

Legislative leaders say some committees may begin looking at how to chop existing spending in the current two-year, $34.7 billion budget as early as next week. But it will take two or three weeks before much work will be done on the budget.

"The budget work will take some time," Anderson Kelliher said.


A nearly $1 billion budget deficit is expected to be filled by cutting existing budgets, using some reserve funds and taking some money out various small accounts with surpluses.

March 4 meetings OK past 6 p.m.

The first bill Pawlenty signed this legislative session allows governmental bodies to hold meetings Tuesday night.

That had been the night set aside for political caucuses in the state's 4,000 precincts. However, Democratic and Republican leaders decided to move the caucuses up to Feb. 5, but a law prohibiting government meetings on caucus night remained on the books.The bill quietly passed the House and Senate and the governor signed it Thursday.

State Capitol Bureau reporter Scott Wente contributed to this story. Wente and Don Davis work for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.

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