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Pawlenty taking time with bonding bill

ST. PAUL - The fate of a $925 million public works package was in limbo as Gov. Tim Pawlenty planned to review it over the weekend after warning Minnesota lawmakers it was $100 million too big.

Republican Pawlenty is expected on Monday to either veto the entire bill, a compromise of Democratic Senate and House proposals, or remove money for specific projects.

The bill is funded by the state selling bonds. It authorizes work on public colleges, water clean-up programs, state buildings and events centers.

Pawlenty has said the bonding bill should be capped at $825 million. A higher amount, he said, would mean the state would pay too much interest to repay the bonds in a time when the state's economy is dragging.

"The bill in its current form is just not responsible and reflects misplaced priorities," Pawlenty said.

The governor was especially upset the bill lacked two of his priorities -- buying land for a new park along Lake Vermilion and replacing a Minneapolis veterans' home -- but funded theaters and hockey centers.

"All of which are nice," he said of the recreational facilities, "but this is an issue of whether it's necessary and is it a priority in these challenging and economic times."

Democratic lawmakers said they made tough decisions when they trimmed $4 billion worth of requests down to $925 million. The House approved the bonding bill 90-42 and the Senate backed it 57-10.

"He has the ability to make this bill be the size he wants it to be," Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud, said of Pawlenty's line-item veto authority.

House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said since Pawlenty did not immediately veto the package, he must be looking at it seriously.

"It's showing us that he's at least engaging and looking very carefully at the bill right now," she said.