Bonding bill: LSC building, airport, sewage fixes fly through
Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed into law a roughly $680 million state construction bonding bill after using his veto pen to strike dozens of projects across the state.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
Gov. Tim Pawlenty lived up to a deal with DFL lawmakers on Sunday by signing into law a roughly $680 million state construction bonding bill, but not until after he used his pen to strike dozens of projects across the state.
Pawlenty cut about $319 million from what had been a $1 billion bill that borrows money to build roads, schools, parks and other public projects across the state.
But the Republican governor left intact $12.1 million for a new health sciences building at Lake Superior College in Duluth; $11.7 million for a new terminal at Duluth Internahttp://legacy.duluthnewstribune.com/admin/index.cfm?page=articles/index&id=162995&year=2010&month=03&day=15#tional Airport; and $27 million for wastewater control, including money to build two additional sewage overflow tanks in Duluth to keep untreated wastewater out of Lake Superior.
The Duluth Zoo also gets $200,000 for exhibit upgrades. And the Northern Lights Express passenger rail service between the Twin Ports and Twin Cities gets permission to use $3 million leftover from the 2009 bonding bill.
“In a year with must-haves and nice-to-haves, we got the must-haves,” said State Rep. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth. “The Lake Superior College project is huge, as is the sewage money. And the airport money will bring in another [$41.3] million in federal money. … Of all the projects in the bonding bill, statewide, the [Duluth] airport project leverages the most outside money by far.”
The bill also includes $5.4 million for expansion of the industrial mechanical technology and carpentry programs at Mesabi Range Community and Technical College in Eveleth. Pawlenty vetoed $3 million for expansion of the engineering program at the same school.
Pawlenty had threatened to veto the entire bill, but after negotiations he agreed to let most of it pass when DFL lawmakers included several of his favored projects, including $47.5 million for expansion of the sexual offender treatment facility in Moose Lake, which now will be built.
Instead of a full veto, however, Pawlenty cut millions of dollars by striking specific projects, a constitutional right he has to cut dollar amounts but not language in bills he signs into law.
The state builds public facilities by borrowing money, issuing bonds and paying them back over time, usually 15 years. DFL lawmakers say a big bonding bill would have helped rebuild crumbling infrastructure while providing much-needed jobs in the construction industry.
But Pawlenty said the bill was too fat, and that the state can’t afford to pay the interest on a $1 billion bill.
“The DFL-controlled Legislature seems incapable of prioritizing projects or simply saying no. So, I have done it for you again,” Pawlenty said in his veto message to the Legislature.
Pawlenty also vetoed $3 million for port development assistance; $3.7 million for Chisholm-Hibbing (Range) Regional Airport; $1 million for the Two Harbors Municipal Campground; and $250,000 headed to the St. Louis County Board of Commissioners to upgrade event facilities, namely the Hibbing Memorial Building and Mountain Iron Events Center.
Natural resource and conservation projects were especially hit hard by Pawlenty’s veto pen. The governor killed $25 million for the Reinvest in Minnesota land conservation program; $21.4 million to expand and rehabilitate state parks; and $4.5 million to expand state Scientific and Natural Areas, considered the last and best habitat types of their kind.
The governor also vetoed all $43 million earmarked for mass transit projects aimed at reducing congestion and air pollution.