Governor Tim Pawlenty says he intends to sign a nearly $1 billion bonding bill that is headed his way, but the governor said he will use his line-item veto authority to cut projects from it.
His decision today comes as Democrats increased their criticism of Pawlenty's proposal to expand the state's sex offender treatment center at Moose Lake.
Pawlenty told reporters today that the bonding bill agreed on by legislative negotiators is "something he can work with."
"The bonding bill incorporates most of our key priorities," he said. "It's still too large, but it's a bill we can work with. We'll just have to slim it down to something that is more reasonable and responsible and affordable."
Pawlenty didn't specify which projects he would line-item veto or if he would cut the bill to a specific dollar figure. In the past, Pawlenty said would support a bill that spent no more than $725 million.
His decision to sign the bonding bill comes one day after Democrats objected to the amount of money his administration was requesting to expand the state's sex offender facility in Moose Lake. The governor wanted $89 million for the project.
Blueprints showed space for a spiritual center, a craft room, a recreation room and a library. Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, who was one of several Democrats to criticize the plan, called it a "sexual predator palace."
"This sexual predator program has gotten out of hand and its just going to cost us way too much in the long run," Murphy said. "People are worried now that we double bunk sexual predators? You know what? I don't care. Put 20 of them in a room."
For his part, Pawlenty said the $47.5 million negotiators settled on for the expansion is enough. When asked to explain why some of the state's most dangerous offenders need a craft room and other amenities, Pawlenty said the residents of the facility are patients, not prisoners.
The residents of the sex offender treatment facility have been civilly committed there after a judge determined they're too dangerous to go free.
"Once they serve their time in prison, if we're going to keep them legally, civilly committed, it can't just be like a prison because the courts won't tolerate that," Pawlenty said.
When asked if the facility needed to be "nice," Pawlenty said, "Well, it has to be what the court says it has to be."
The House and Senate are expected to pass the bill on Thursday and send it to the governor. Lawmakers and the interest groups with public works projects in the bill will then have to wait to see which projects Pawlenty rejects.
Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, said she hopes the governor considers the impact of each project that he cuts.
"Fewer jobs. That's the most immediate first issue," Hausman said. "Because most of these projects are ready to go, immediately there are fewer jobs that come out of this."
Hausman, who chairs the House's capital investment committee, has lots of experience with Pawlenty vetoes. In 2007, he rejected the entire bonding bill. In 2008, he used the line-item veto to cut 55 projects, and in 2009, he cut 12 projects from the bonding bill.