Temporary truce: DFL leaders pull back bonding bill and avoid Pawlenty veto

Last year, “unallotment” became the political buzzword in Minnesota politics.

This year, “pre-empt” appears destined to be the new word in St. Paul.

On Monday evening, you’ll recall, Gov. Tim Pawlenty issued a pre-emptive veto of the DFL-inspired $1 billion bonding bill that sailed through the House and Senate chambers shortly after Pawlenty’s long-distance letter hit the desks of state legislators.

Today, just as Pawlenty was about to turn his threatened veto into the real deal, DFL legislative leaders pre-empted that move by withdrawing the bonding bill.

House speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher said the move was arranged to give everyone a chance “to take a deep breath.”

House speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher
House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher

And, in fact, there appears to be a chance that DFLers and the governor will sit down and try to reach agreement on a bonding bill.

In a letter to the governor the governor received just before a news conference he’d called to announce his veto, the House and Senate leaders of the bonding bill waved a scraggly olive branch.

“We are willing to come to the table and further discuss this bill,” wrote Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, and Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon. “It is our understanding the Senate would be willing to reconsider HF2700 [the bonding bill] this Thursday if you are willing to provide a specific list of projects and amounts that you want removed in addition to specific list of your spending priorities that need to be added to the bill. We need this list by Thursday, Feb. 25th.”

‘They overspend’
The governor, who just returned from a five-day trip to Washington, D.C., didn’t exactly embrace the DFLers decision to pull back.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty
MinnPost/Terry Gydesen
Gov. Tim Pawlenty

“They do what they always do,” said Pawlenty of the DFLers. “They can’t help themselves. They overspend.”

Like Republican legislators, the governor accused the DFL of slipping the bonding bill through a conference committee “in the dark of night.” He also said he — and his staff — had been available throughout the weekend, when the final bill was being put together and he was in D.C. doing mostly political work on his own behalf.

“My being out of town had nothing to do with this,” said Pawlenty of the train wreck the session already has become.

Smaller bill likely
Still, in the end, Pawlenty did take a finger hold of the DFLers’ olive twig, saying he’d be happy to sit down and deal with the DFLers to get a bonding bill passed quickly.

He made it clear the bill will have to be much smaller than the $1 billion bill that has been passed and withdrawn. He also made it clear that a couple of his pet projects, including a $90 million expansion of the Moose Lake holding facility for sexual predators, will have to be included.

So where could all of this end up? Probably with a bonding bill in the neighborhood of $750 million, with a lot of projects that Pawlenty sees as “local” in nature going down the bonding drain.

“A bonding bill is not one of the more difficult things to get done,” said Pawlenty. “It’s relatively easy to put together if people sit down and are serious about getting things done.”

DFLers will surely point out that it’s easier to sit down with a governor who is actually in Minnesota.

And Pawlenty will surely respond that the DFLers are “irresponsible.”

But maybe, just maybe, there’s a pre-emptive truce about to break out for at least a few days.

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 02/23/2010 - 05:38 pm.

    Bless the DFl for getting this thing through early, rather than monkeying around as they did last year…

    I think that around $850 mil is appropriate and if it takes #180 mil in Pawlenty pork, that is fine. As the old saying about making sausag goes…

  2. Submitted by Rebecca Hoover on 02/23/2010 - 08:12 pm.

    I hope the Democrats have enough sense to make it clear to Pawlenty that funding of his pet projects will happen only if GAMC is protected.

    The Democrats need to learn to use some muscle instead of putting things off until the last minute and then crying like babies when Pawlenty plays hard ball. The Democrats created their own problems with their last minute bill making last session.

  3. Submitted by Ambrose Charpentier on 02/24/2010 - 09:02 am.

    Pawlenty is not cut out for working with a legislature – maybe not with any human beings. He’s erratic, won’t state his needs and wants until after the fact, and he’s name caller. I sure hope we get a grown-up for governor next time.

  4. Submitted by Glen Broemer on 02/24/2010 - 09:07 am.

    pawlenty thought bubble, “if only there were some way i could screw over the poor and disabled”

    the question for the next two elections, can the right make fools of the american people, in a huge way, twice in a 10-12 year span? they support health care reform but are campaigning against it, blame obama for the bush-cheney mistakes, seem to have forgotten that the right entered into a ridiculous war that cost us a trillion to military industrialists, another trillion because no one was minding the economy. they sacrificed the middle class economically and in war, and are running on a vapid criticism they themselves do not accept—how funny that they say they want in on a populist movement.

    glen broemer

  5. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 02/24/2010 - 12:18 pm.

    The state needs to rethink its policies on sex offenders and come up with something that’s constitutional. This looks like another ploy–and an expensive one–on Pawlenty’s part to cater to the far right who like to lock people up forever. That money should go to GAMC–and no exchange deal. It’s wasted money for a new prison; we need to approach these problems in ways that do not mean incarceration forever–like treatment, hospitalization, education (of us as well as the offender), etc.

  6. Submitted by William Pappas on 02/24/2010 - 01:03 pm.

    Pawlenty has to have the Moose Lake expansion in any bonding bill. Without it he is vulnerable to criticism of his incompetant cost-cutting tactics that put sex offenders on the street and in nursing homes earlier in his tenure as the “no new taxes” sherriff. The new Moose Lake sex offender incarceration facility will be his cover for those two tragic errors. There is no logical way that cutting GAMC from the budget can be seen as cost effective. Ultimately that action will cost the hospitals and the state millions in emergency room charges. If Pawlenty can’t see his way for a trade for a program that will save money fast then he really isn’t trying. The fact is Pawlenty can’t fully participate in this process without being in town. He certainly can’t be fully engaged. A governor working with the legislature with a drive to get things done would have his fingerprints all over lots of legislation. Pawlenty, with his hatred of “liberals”, can barely suffer a staffer to speak in civil terms with them. I think Pawlenty’s disinterest in functional government is starting to annoy even radical conservatives like Marty Seiferty.

  7. Submitted by Mike Wyatt on 02/24/2010 - 04:31 pm.

    Are the dems just testing the political waters? You betcha, Sven!

    They’re seeing how much pork the MN public can stomach. They likely found a lot of anti-government, anti-incumbent sentiment after their vote to pass this. Time to pull it back and say, “we didn’t really mean it!”

  8. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 02/24/2010 - 04:34 pm.

    If the legislature passes a bill decriminalizing medical marijuana AND shortening by half to three-quarters the sentences of first-time offenders (who should be given the choice of treatment in place of a sentence), we could no doubt free up enough prison space to house every sex offender ever born.

    Every private prison should be closed, period. Prisons, a public good, cannot possibly be cheaper to run if they must make a profit, and to make a profit inmates’ food would probably be mac & cheese every day and their “library” past copies of Readers Digest.

  9. Submitted by Sara Lind on 02/24/2010 - 11:30 pm.

    The REAL Bonding Debate

    State “bonding” is nothing more than loans from private, New York based banking institions– usually JP Morgan and the Depository Trust Company. They give us mostly counterfeit money, register all bonds in their own name, and resell some to beneficiary holders. All we need to do is pledge generations of Minnesotans to debt servitude. Instead of nominal bonding for the private interest of JP Morgan, let’s consider true state control of bond adminstration and sales: a state bank operating in the public interest.

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