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GOP assails Dems who backed bonding bill

In the final days before the election, Republicans are slamming DFL incumbents who voted for a $1 billion bonding bill this year.

Campaign literature sent by the Republican Party of Minnesota goes after three Rochester area Democrats —  Rep. Kim Norton, Rep. Andy Welti and Sen. Ann Lynch. The ads all share the same theme, arguing that these lawmakers supported wasteful spending including $11 million for gorilla cages at Como Zoo in St. Paul. A TV ad running features Welti's face on the body of a dancing gorilla.

Republicans call the bonding bill wasteful spending, Democrats point to the jobs the public works bill created. In the eyes of most lawmakers who voted for it, the bill was full of local projects voters wanted.

"The Republicans nationally are criticizing the Obama stimulus bill saying it didn't work and it spent a lot of money on frivolous and wasteful things, and I think this is almost a state-equivalent strategy of doing the same thing," he said.


He added that the ads might be a subtle dig at DFL gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton, who said he would support passing a $1 billion bonding bill next year if he's elected. Given voter concern about government spending, Schultz said this approach could resonate with voters.

The local ads center on the lawmakers' votes in favor of a $1 billion construction borrowing bill, which included funding for several area projects including:

• $28 million for the Mayo Civic Center expansion

• $4 million for the National Volleyball Center in Rochester

• $8.5 million to relocate Rochester Area Workforce Center to Rochester Community and Technical College.

All the projects favored by business and community leaders in Rochester.

What the ads fail to mention is that Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty used his line-item veto to trim out more than $300 million in projects. His veto pen cut funding for the civic center expansion and the workforce center, but he left in the volleyball center and the money for the Como Zoo gorilla cages.

Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, is one of the Republicans who voted for the bonding bill. He said he ultimately cast a "yes" vote in support of the Rochester projects included in the bill even though he thought the bill was far too large.


"Frankly, in every bonding bill you are going to get a bunch of junk. Junk is in the eyes of the beholder I understand that," he said. "But in order to get a roof fixed, somebody is going to put a gorilla cage in it and it's a matter how much can you tolerate."

In the world of political ads, Senjem said "he is not sure that anything is unfair at this point" with parties and outside groups running nasty ads.

Welti said bonding bills always pose a challenge for lawmakers. He said once a bonding bill makes it to the House floor, odds are slim that any project will successfully get stripped from the bill.

"Unfortunately, once in awhile there are a few projects in there that members don't agree with," he said, "but if they don't come out then you are either voting against the entire bill over one project or you are voting for the bill to support good projects in your community, that in Rochester have brought jobs to the community."

-->A Hamline University Law School professor said the strategy mirrors efforts by national Republicans to link Democrats to the stimulus bill. Read about it in Thursday's print edition.

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