Governor Pawlenty signed a bill establishing more than $100 million in new tax breaks over the next three years for a wide range of economic development projects.
One provision provides tax exemptions and job retention incentives for the St. Paul Ford plant, which is scheduled to close in 2011. Pawlenty said he hopes the tax breaks convince Ford officials to reconsider, but he plans to give them some time.
During a signing ceremony Thursday, Pawlenty said Minnesota's quality of life depends on the availability of jobs.
"We need to be doing those things that encourage more job growth, businesses starting in our state, more economic activity and investment in our state," Pawlenty said.
The Republican governor said he also signed a supplemental budget bill that erases about a third of the nearly $1 billion deficit.
The measure reduces spending in the current two-year budget period by $312 million. The biggest reduction came from state aid to cities and counties. Pawlenty told reporters Thursday that the bill was a positive, substantial step. He said the remaining budget fix, as well as an early conclusion to the Legislative session, hinges on the amount of federal health care money coming to Minnesota.
"It's not yet resolved. If that crystallizes and becomes confirmed in the near-term it makes an early conclusion easier," Pawlenty said. "If it drags on or is uncertain, you know it's a question mark."
The Republican governor offered a mostly upbeat assessment of the session. He said there has been good progress and pretty good relations so far.