Pawlenty promises to use his veto pen
ST. PAUL — Gov. Tim Pawlenty vowed to veto a $1 billion public works bill passed by lawmakers Monday night, saying it is too expensive and full of misplaced priorities.
Pawlenty sent a letter warning of his veto even before members of the DFL-led House and Senate had a chance to vote on the bill.
"The people of Minnesota expect us to spend their tax dollars frugally and wisely. This bill does neither," Pawlenty wrote.
Democrats said the governor’s actions will prevent much-needed jobs from being created. Sen. Ann Lynch, DFL-Rochester, said she is "very disappointed" by the governor’s decision.
"Our community lost; the governor did us no favors," said Lynch, who served on the conference committee that drafted the final bill last weekend.
Despite the veto threat, the Minnesota House passed the bill 85-46 and the Senate passed it 47-19.
Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, was the lone southeastern Minnesota Republican who voted in favor of the bill, saying he was supporting it "to honor the efforts of my community."
The Legislature’s construction borrowing bill contained millions of dollars in projects for Rochester and southeastern Minnesota. For example:
• $32 million for the expansion of Mayo Civic Center.
• $8.2 million to relocate the workforce center at Rochester Community and Technical College.
• $4 million to expand the National Volleyball Center.
• $5 million for a performing arts center in Chatfield.
Pawlenty had proposed a $685 million bonding bill that did not include local projects other than some dollars for the Southern Rail Corridor bypass.
He cited civic centers and sports facilities as examples of misplaced priorities, while noting that the bill failed to include funding for public safety projects including the expansion of the Moose Lake sex offender treatment center.
During debate on the House floor, Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, said, "We are supposed to make our own decisions, and I am tired of the governor acting like a dictator. I am tired of receiving threatening letters on my desk from this governor who doesn’t seem to understand that we have three branches of government."
Taking a similar view as Pawlenty, Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, blasted the bill, saying it is filled with pork. "This is nothing but a debt-creation bill."