MARSHALL (AP) -- In contrast to his predecessor, Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed the bill that authorizes borrowing for state construction without vetoing a single project.
Pawlenty went to Southwest Minnesota State University on Thursday to formally approve the $237 million in projects around the state. About a quarter of the money is earmarked for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, with $9.2 million for a library project at the college in Marshall.
The Republican governor also signed off on four other bills, clearing his desk of all of the legislation passed during the recent special Legislative session.
The main purpose of the bonding bill was not as an economic stimulus package for the economy, although Pawlenty said it would help. The governor said the reason rural Minnesota got so many projects was that most of Gov. Jesse Ventura's vetoes last year were for projects in greater Minnesota.
"This is a good bill. It is an appropriate bill," Pawlenty said in Marshall. "I'm happy to sign it, particularly in these times to provide some economic stimulation, and it reflects good balance geographically in Minnesota."
The bill includes dozens of projects -- from a new Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis to science labs and athletic facilities at public colleges to flood relief for Roseau.
The bonding bill was a concession to the DFL-controlled Senate in budget talks.
Pawlenty and the House GOP majority were planning to wait until next year to put one together. But Democratic senators considered it their top priority, contending that low interest rates make it the right time to borrow money. They said the state's economy will benefit as idled construction crews are put to work.
"Throughout the session, Republicans used the bonding bill as a partisan pawn," said Senate Majority Leader John Hottinger, DFL-St. Peter. "It was a victory for us to secure this economic tool for Minnesotans despite loud opposition from the Governor and the Republican House."
Last year, Ventura vetoed dozens of projects to cut a $979 million capital improvements bill to $627 million. Unlike Pawlenty and House Republicans, Ventura was an Independent with few allies in the Legislature who could whittle away projects before they reached the governor's desk.
So when the Legislature approved the list of projects with little input from Ventura, the governor chose to nix most new projects, opting instead to repair or maintain current buildings and to complete projects already begun.
Ventura vetoed 116 public works projects last year and 16 the year before. And in 1999, Ventura blindsided lawmakers by using his line-item veto authority and a pig stamp to strip $160 million and 40 projects from various bills.
On the Net:
The bill, containing a complete list of projects, can be found at http://www.house.mn Call up HF8.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.