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Pawlenty vetoes tax bill

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Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty at the 2009 fishing opener. Pawlenty vetoed a $1 billion tax bill with only nine days left before the current legislative session ends, but the Gov. said there's still time to reach an agreement.
Tim Pugmire/MPR News

During a break from fishing, the Republican governor said Democrats shouldn't have been surprised by his veto.

"So I think it was, from their standpoint, just an exercise that they needed to do for their stakeholder groups," Pawlenty said. "I think they knew it was really more of an academic exercise than something that would seriously be considered."

Late Friday night, Democrats in the Minnesota House and Senate passed the $1 billion tax bill aimed at funding schools, hospitals and nursing homes.

DFL House Majority Leader Tony Sertich said the Republican governor continues to show inflexibility in trying to erase a $4.6 billion budget deficit.

"I think they knew it was really more of an academic exercise than something that would seriously be considered."

The current legislative session must end by May 18, but Sertich said its too soon to know if the House will try to override the veto.

"Because none of us want to go to special session, we have to weigh: is it going to be easier for the governor to even give an inch, or is it going to be easier to get four other legislators to vote to maintain funding for our schools, our hospitals, our nursing homes and for disabled Minnesotans?" Sertich said.

The clock is ticking, but Pawlenty said there's still time to reach a budget agreement.

"We have over a week left in the session and if they want to get bills passed that can be signed into law that's plenty of time to do it," Pawlenty said. "The question is whether they really want to."

The House debated the bill for five hours before voting 86-45, which was four votes shy of the support it needed to get by Pawlenty's veto. The Senate passed the bill 44-20, with two Democrats voting against it.

DFL House leaders said they might try to override the governor's veto, but they would need help from four Republicans. There were no GOP votes for the bill in the House on Friday, and one Democrat also voted against it.

House and Senate Republicans said the tax bill would hurt the state economy by adding an extra burden on the people who help create jobs. They also object to the fast process used to develop the bill.

The Legislature and Pawlenty have until May 18 to finish a two-year budget on time, although a special session is a possibility. Only two small pieces of the budget are settled. Minnesota lawmakers are confronting a $4.6 billion projected deficit, a shortfall that would be larger without federal stimulus dollars.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)