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Lawmakers: Rail line on bubble

Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- Lawmakers say they may pass a bonding bill that doesn't include one of Gov. Jesse Ventura's pet projects, a commuter train between the St. Cloud area and Minneapolis. But if they do, he doesn't plan to let them forget it.

Ventura told the House and Senate chairmen who have been negotiating the bill that he plans to use his veto pen to strike any projects he deems less important than the Northstar train.

"I will hold up all projects in the bonding bill to the level of Northstar and the importance of it," Ventura told reporters after the meeting Wednesday morning. "All bonding bill projects will have to rise to the level of regional or statewide importance as Northstar would in order for me to be supportive of them."

The bonding bill, done every other year, is a list of projects deemed worth borrowing to pay for.

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One of those projects, at the moment, is in Rochester. A proposed upgrade of Rochester's National Volleyball Center received $3 million in bonding in the most recent versions of the House and Senate offers. It is unclear if it will be included in the final version of the bill.

Rep. Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, said he chose not to interpret Ventura's remarks as a threat to individual members' projects.

Knoblach, a train supporter himself, said there simply aren't enough votes in the House for the train to meet the large majority needed to pass a bonding bill.

House-Senate talks over the bonding bill have been done in almost total secrecy, and it's unclear which projects are in the bill now. Knoblach and Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said they are close to a deal.

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