The capital investment bill (HF380) received a $208 million line-item trim from Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Coming into law at $717 million in general obligation bonding, it is more than $100 million less the amount the governor set as a target.
Pawlenty said the reduction reflects his commitment to fiscal discipline. “We have a deteriorating economic state, and there’s been further slippage since the February forecast,” that projected a nearly $1 billion deficit this biennium, he said.
Taking a direct hit from Pawlenty’s veto pen was a $70 million allocation for the proposed Central Corridor light-rail transit project that would link St. Paul and Minneapolis. “The project still faces serious challenges. We are pulling the project into the maintenance shed for further inspection,” Pawlenty said.
Also among the 52 red-lined projects are:
• $70 million for various University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system projects, including $24 million for a new Bell Museum of Natural History on the St. Paul campus;
• $18.5 million for improvements to various metropolitan area parks and trails, including $11 million for improvements to the polar bear and gorilla exhibits at St. Paul’s Como Zoo;
• $13.7 million for proposed rail and transit projects, including $4 million for planning of a high-speed rail line connecting St. Paul to Chicago; and
• $7.7 million for various sports centers proposed through the Amateur Sports Commission;
House Majority Leader Tony Sertich (DFL-Chisholm) called the new law “bittersweet” — while creating jobs, addressing clean water and wastewater infrastructure issues, it is “a direct personal attack” on the House sponsor, Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL-St. Paul). Sertich called the cutting of most St. Paul projects, “disgusting,” and saying the cuts are retaliation on the House for the veto override of the transportation bill.
Sertich, too, left open the door to a compromise with the governor over the Central Corridor proposal and the governor’s proposed Lake Vermilion State Park, which was not funded in the bill sent to the governor.