Even before legislators had a chance to vote on a nearly $1 billion bonding bill Monday night, they received an e-mail from Gov. Tim Pawlenty telling them he will veto the bill in its entirety when it arrives on his desk, as early as Tuesday.
The bill was agreed upon by legislative leaders in a conference committee meeting late Sunday night that carried over into Monday morning. The bill, which contains $100 million in University of Minnesota projects, got final approval from the Legislature on Monday night.
In the message to legislators, Pawlenty said the bill “represents severely misguided priorities,” and leaves out funding for important state construction projects, including a treatment facility for sex offenders that the governor proposed funding fully in his version of the bill.
But even after receiving the e-mail, lawmakers went ahead with their floor sessions to pass the bill with bipartisan support in both chambers.
“We have a responsible and focused bill,” Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, chairwoman of the House Capital Investment Committee, said on the floor before the vote. “It is responsible and it is focused as always on those priorities that get us ready for when the economy recovers.”
Even before Pawlenty sent the e-mail Monday evening, some DFLers had doubts he would approve all of the bill’s total $999.9 million price tag.
“He’s going to do something with it,” said Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, chairman of the Senate Capital Investment Committee. “If he doesn’t veto the whole thing he’ll probably go through and line-item [veto] quite a bit.”
The governor’s own bill totaled $685 million — nearly $315 million less than the Legislature’s version.
“The people of Minnesota expect us to spend their tax dollars frugally and wisely,” Pawlenty said in the e-mail. “This bill does neither.”
The Legislature voted to pass the bill with the majority of University projects in place, including full funding for a new Itasca Biological Station, an American Indian Learning Research Center in Duluth and funding for systemwide general laboratory renovations.
The University is set to receive $55 million of its requested $100 million in Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement funding, which pays for routine maintenance and upkeep of campus infrastructure.
The Legislature’s bill differs from the one proposed by Pawlenty last month in higher education funding largely in that it doesn’t include full funding for a new University physics and nanotechnology building. While the governor supported full funding for the facility, lawmakers voted to only include $5 million in planning money for the project with the understanding of granting the University full funding for the project in a future bonding bill.
Langseth said he wished the bill’s total University funding had been greater and closer to the Senate’s proposed $111 million, but the $100 million agreed upon in conference committee was a good compromise alongside the House’s proposed $77 million for the University.