EditPawlenty’s message ‘Show restraint, or I’ll do it for you’

We can only assume that Gov. Tim Pawlenty was trying to send a message to legislators on Monday when he announced that he’d used his line-item veto power to slash more than $208 million from the bonding bill they sent him last week.

The general expectation was that Pawlenty would veto the whole $925 million proposal let the House and Senate trim it, then sign it into law. That’s the way these things usually work.

Not this time. Pawlenty had the ball in his court, but instead of volleying it back, he put it in his pocket and walked away. He cut $100 million more than he says he was obligated to, and his attitude seemed to be along the lines of, "You dared me to do this, so I’ll give you a something extra to think about for next time."

The Rochester area didn’t have immunity from the veto pen. Once again a proposed $3 million expansion to the National Volleyball Center ended up on the cutting-room floor, as did a sheet music lending library in Chatfield that on Monday was Pawlenty’s favorite whipping boy — he ridiculed the $400,000 proposal at least three times during his press conference.

But left intact are $3.5 million in planning money for a remodeling of Mayo Civic Center, $3.65 million for a regional public safety training center, $133,000 in planning money for a workforce center at Rochester Community and Technical College, and $175,000 to study the feasibility of dredging Lake Zumbro.


Why were other portions of the state — St. Paul in particular — hit so hard? We suspect that the governor was still smarting from the Legislature’s override of his transportation bill veto, and on Monday he clearly regained some lost turf. Legislators can cry foul all they want, but they shouldn’t really be surprised. Pawlenty has made cost-containment a top priority, and he’d drawn a line in the sand — an $825 million cap on the bonding bill.

Legislators trampled past it to the tune of more than $100 million, and have paid a price for tempting fate.

That’s why we can’t help but agree with the spirit, if not the manner, of Pawlenty’s action. Among many legislators, there seems to be an attitude that the bonding bill doesn’t involve real money, that even in a time when belt-tightening is happening everywhere, this statewide "jobs program" should be as big as possible. "Share the wealth!" and "We want our fair share!" seem to be the rallying cries, as city and state officials keep score of who received how much and fight to be first in line for the next round of handouts.

Does the bonding bill fund important projects? Absolutely. Would we favor nixing the whole concept? Absolutely not.

But we’re more convinced than ever that when things get tight, Minnesota shouldn’t keep charging things on its credit card as if unemployment were low, the stock market was soaring and homes were selling in six days, not six months.

What To Read Next
Get Local