Pawlenty, lawmakers can't agree on bonding size
ST. PAUL - Size matters. At least that is true when it comes to a public works projects funding bill. Key lawmakers and Gov. Tim Pawlenty discussed the issue Thursday, barely touching specific projects, Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said. "Ni...
ST. PAUL - Size matters.
At least that is true when it comes to a public works projects funding bill.
Key lawmakers and Gov. Tim Pawlenty discussed the issue Thursday, barely touching specific projects, Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said.
"Ninety percent of the talk was about size," Langseth added after emerging from the governor's office.
Democratic leaders in the Legislature want to spend $100 million more than Pawlenty on projects such as community events centers, college facilities' repair and park improvements. But on Thursday, Republican Pawlenty said the lawmakers' $925 million plan would require the state to pay too much interest on money borrowed for the projects.
Pawlenty said he thinks the larger bill would endanger a long-time informal guideline that the state spend no more than 3 percent of its general fund budget on interest.
"I feel very strongly of the need to abide by the 3 percent limit," Pawlenty said.
Legislative leaders who must craft the public works bill - known as the bonding bill - said they have no doubt their bigger bill would fit into the 3 percent criteria.
The dispute has delayed action on the bill, although Pawlenty said on Thursday that he expects an agreement at some point.
Pawlenty Thursday afternoon hosted a meeting with Langseth and Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, chairmen of the bonding committees. The legislative pair left the governor's office somewhat optimistic.
"Maybe he blinked; I'm not sure," Langseth said.
When the different bills the House and Senate passed are added together, they total $200 million more than lawmakers' $925 million proposals.
Langseth said the soonest senators could vote on a new bonding bill would be Tuesday.
Overall, Pawlenty was not pleased with how DFL majorities in the House and Senate are treating his proposals to balance a projected $935 million budget deficit. He hinted if budget proposals DFLers back pass the Legislature, there could be a lot of vetoes.
"In each area of the budget, they are de-funding initiatives that were mine," Pawlenty said.
For instance, both legislative chambers are looking at killing his pet rural economic development program, Job Opportunity Building Zones.
Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, Thursday tried to amend a tax bill going through the Senate Taxes Committee to keep JOBZ alive. However, he dropped the attempt after Tax Chairman Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, promised to hear the proposal later in the session.
Also Thursday, a study to build a Vikings stadium was put into Bakk's tax bill.
Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, did not like the idea.
"We can't afford education; we can't afford conservation and natural resources," Marty said, but now the Legislature could begin the road toward a new stadium.
Pawlenty agreed with Marty and insisted no state money go to funding any stadium-related issues during an economic slump.
The study would be funded by a new tax on sports memorabilia.
Roy Terwilliger of the Metropolitan Sports Commission said a study is needed before state and local officials decide whether to support a new stadium, to replace the Metrodome.
"The time to develop this information is now," said Terwilliger, a former GOP state senator.
"It's misdirected priorities for now," Pawlenty rebutted.
On another issue, Pawlenty refused to go as far as to say funding for a new state park along Lake Vermilion is a must-have for him.
"I feel strongly it should be done," he said.
Pawlenty proposes the new park, but negotiations with the current land owner have not been completed, so the cost of buying the land is not known.
Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.