Pawlenty, Dems meet over budget issuesST. PAUL — Gov. Tim Pawlenty plans to propose a slate of state-backed construction projects next week, ahead of a legislative session that is expected to focus largely on reducing state spending.
By: Associated Press, Worthington Daily Globe
ST. PAUL — Gov. Tim Pawlenty plans to propose a slate of state-backed construction projects next week, ahead of a legislative session that is expected to focus largely on reducing state spending.
The Republican governor and top lawmakers met Friday to discuss the state’s financial woes and other session issues. Minnesota’s budget is running $1.2 billion short through mid-2011.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller said the tone of the conversation with Pawlenty was the “best in several years.” Pogemiller and other Democrats are pushing Pawlenty to present his budget proposal even before the regular session begins Feb. 4.
They want a quick start to the session, with House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher pushing for passage of a large public works bill within the first two weeks. Kelliher also predicted speedy action on a package of incentives for small business and a plan to keep more than 30,000 low-income adults insured when their state health care ends on March 1.
“The state is looking for us each to take a little bit from each side of this and really come together,” said Kelliher, one of a dozen Democrats running for governor.
Pawlenty isn’t seeking a third term and is considered a potential 2012 presidential candidate.
Gubernatorial spokesman Brian McClung said Pawlenty’s budget proposal will solve the projected deficit through spending reductions. McClung said military and public safety programs would be the only areas untouched, with even public schools considered for possible cuts.
McClung said Pawlenty will present the budget sometime around the start of the session. Kelliher also said she invited the governor to present his final State of the State address to the Legislature in the House chamber.
Pogemiller said he wants to see Pawlenty show he can balance the budget by cutting without using payment shifts or delays.
The bonding bill is usually the Legislature’s main task in non-budget years like 2010. With the state’s financial problems, there is no consensus on how much to borrow to pay for construction projects.
Democrats eager to put hard hats to work have yet to show whether they will pare down their proposals to fit Pawlenty’s parameters. McClung said the governor’s plan has room for about $725 million worth of projects. If the Legislature passes a bigger bill, the governor can cull projects using the line-item veto.