Pawlenty vetoes construction projects bill

Gov. Tim Pawlenty
Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed a construction projects bill Tuesday, saying the $334 million pricetag was too high.
MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire

(AP) - Rather than spare projects he liked, Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed an entire state construction funding bill Tuesday and told legislators they'll have to scale it back to must-do items if they want his backing.

The $334 million bill passed the House and Senate the day before. It authorized borrowing or cash payments for flood mitigation in Browns Valley, arena expansions in Duluth and St. Cloud, seed money for new transit lines and general repair of prison and college buildings.

"This is unfortunate because it includes a number of good and worthy projects, including things I strongly support," Pawlenty said.

He attacked it as too large and said it came to him too soon in the process. Pawlenty said he asked leaders to withhold the public works bill until after a broader budget agreement was struck.

"This governor wants a train wreck at the end of session. He wants the Legislature to fail and he wants to blame us."

Pawlenty proposed a capital improvements bill more than four times smaller than the one lawmakers approved. He had the power to slim it down by vetoing items one by one, but said it wasn't practical.

"The number of line items we would have done would have eviscerated the bill," he said.

Democratic legislators reacted angrily to his decision to take down the whole bill.

"That is a clear indication this governor wants a train wreck at the end of session," said Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing. "He wants the Legislature to fail and he wants to blame us."

Pawlenty suggested legislators pass a standalone Browns Valley bill to get help to the western Minnesota town hit by flooding from a swollen river. The vetoed bill contained $2 million to repair, buy or replace private property damaged by the March flood.

"The people of Browns Valley deserve the relief in this bill and more," he said. "That should be done ASAP."

Other budget bills will hit the governor's desk this week.

By near-unanimous votes, the Legislature approved a spending bill Tuesday for agricultural and veterans programs. It is cruising toward approval without the veto threat that hangs over other budget measures before lawmakers.

The $169 million plan passed with only one dissenting vote this morning. The Senate is expected to add its backing Tuesday afternoon.

The bill pays for the departments of Agriculture, Veterans Affairs and Military Affairs as well as related boards.

Included is a $250,000 appropriation toward the dedication of a World War II memorial at the Capitol. The money would, in part, help veterans of the war get to the June 9 ceremony.

The bill also has money to promote Minnesota-grown products in restaurants, grocery stores and convenience stores.

Pawlenty said he would consider the bills on a case-by-case basis, but he warned that larger budget bills would result in vetoes if they get to him before an overall budget agreement is reached.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.