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Cuts made in bonding bill

ST. PAUL -- Hockey arenas survived, but volleyball and soccer facilities did not.

Most college and university projects will get money, but not a couple in northeastern Minnesota.

A new Red Lake school project lost out, and so did bus and rail line projects.

Most planned college and university construction projects will go ahead. And so will projects like a seed potato inspection building in East Grand Forks, a Red Wing Correctional Center vocational building, a west-central Minnesota chemical dependency treatment facility and countless other public works projects around Minnesota.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty used his line-item veto Monday to trim $208 million from a public works construction bill the Democratic-Farmer-Labor-led Legislature sent him, despite the Republican governor's warnings it was too big.

Pawlenty carved the $925 million bill down to $717 million. St. Paul legislators complained that more than half the money he cut came from their city. Northeastern legislators also complained, but the senator in charge of determining public works funding said plenty of their projects survived.

"It is irresponsible to exceed the 'credit card limit' that has been maintained by governors and legislators from both parties for the past 30 years," Pawlenty wrote in a letter announcing that he signed the bonding bill, but removed funding for 52 projects.

"The bill also reflected misplaced priorities," Pawlenty told reporters, noting that lawmakers would fund a new sheet music museum in southeastern Minnesota while ignoring his request to build a new Minneapolis veterans' home facility.

The governor said "a lot of the projects are good projects," but with an economic slump covering Minnesota and the state budget facing a deficit, many public works projects can wait.

Pawlenty was especially harsh on the top Senate public works negotiator -- Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon.

"Sen. Langseth seems unwilling or unable to say 'no,'" Pawlenty said. "But somebody has to be fiscally responsible."

Pawlenty left the door open to a second bonding bill, and Langseth said he would talk to others about the prospects but was not pushing for one.

At mid-day Monday, the Senate majority leader seemed to say he did not favor a second bonding bill.

"I think we are focusing on balancing the budget now and then will go home," Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, said on Minnesota Public Radio. Added Pawlenty: "We may be done with bonding for the year." When a $233 million University of Minnesota bioscience facilities project is added to the $717 million public works measure Pawlenty left, "it is a very good bill," Langseth said.

"It was somewhat balanced," said the senator, usually one of the Legislature's most vocal Pawlenty critics.

Taking the biggest hit in the line-item vetoes was transit. Pawlenty rejected a $70 million passenger light-rail project that was supposed to link Minneapolis and St. Paul downtowns. Pawlenty said that was not ready.

Pawlenty complained that lawmakers just handed out money to transit projects. He said a better plan is needed to implement them.

The public works funding bill -- popularly known as the bonding bill because money for the projects is raised by the state selling bonds -- is the main reason for lawmakers to be in session this year.

Davis and Wente work for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Daily Globe.