The last bill passed before the Legislature adjourned Sunday morning was a $979 million package of public works projects. The House voted 102-31 and the Senate voted 51-13 for the second largest bonding bill in state history. But the bill could wind up a lot smaller after Gov. Ventura's done with it.
The bill funds construction projects at colleges and universities, parks, trails, state buildings and theaters across the state. It contains no money for the Northstar commuter rail line, Gov. Ventura's top bonding priority. Ventura had threatened to veto many of the projects if Northstar wasn't included in the bill. Northstar supporters tried unsuccessfully to send the bill back to conference committee, in a last-ditch attempt to get funding for the line.
Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, says lawmakers are daring the governor to chop up the bill.
"The governor's reputation is based on his doing the odd thing, and doing what he threatens to do and not being a traditional politician. I think that any of you who are not going to send this bill back on the hopes that something you're interested in this bill will be funded are just smoking something or drinking something or in some hallucinatory frame of mind," Kahn said.
"Legislatures should know after three years, I don't bluff," Gov. Ventura said, adding that he didn't promise legislators that he would leave the bill intact if Northstar was included. But since lawmakers didn't finish the bill in time to override vetoes of projects before they adjourned, Ventura says he would have made sure they had time to override.
"I will be honest and say that if Northstar would have been included, I would have given them the opportunity, I would have made no deal that I wouldn't veto anything else, but I would have allowed them the chance to override the veto," he said.
Northstar opponents say if commuter rail were added to the bill, they wouldn't vote for it. Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston ,says Northstar funding would have killed the bill in the House. He says he'd rather have a bill that can pass the Legislature, and take his chances with the governor.
"The governor's going to veto some stuff because he's the benevolent dictator and as he said, that's not feeling so benevolent right now. So he will have to make those choices. But I'd rather have the bonding bill pass, there's going to be some things vetoed, than have to have no bonding bill at all, because those are the choices," Davids said.
About a third of the bill funds building projects at the University of Minnesota and MnSCU. The biggest single item is a $60 million lab for the state departments of agriculture and health, another top priority for Gov. Ventura. It includes $65 million for road and bridge improvements, $20 million for a busway in the northwestern metro, $24 million for a new Guthrie Theater and nearly $10 million for the Minneapolis Planetarium.
Rep. Eric Lipman, R-Lake Elmo, says he hopes the governor vetoes many of the projects in the bill. He says it's unaffordable in the current economic climate.
"You don't run up the credit card in tough times. I urge a red vote for the families, the working families of Minnesota, who are going to have big time trouble trying to pay for this bill," Lipman said.
The bill's House author, Rep. Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, says the bill does a good job of taking care of the leaky roofs at state buildings. "This is a big bill. Frankly, bigger than I would like it to be. For those of you who are concerned about that, I think it may well get smaller soon," Knoblach said.
Gov. Ventura now has 14 days to decide what to do with the bill.More from MPR