Some important local projects were spared by Gov. Tim Pawlenty when he whittled down the capital investment bonding bill by $320 million.
The governor approved $680 million for construction projects all across the state, including $1.8 million in funding for a new Tower Road bridge in Fergus Falls. Construction is expected to begin in the fall. Another $5.1 million is included to expand the incinerator in Perham.
It was very important for us to stay focused on essential borrowing this session since we are in such tough economic times and face a $1 billion budget shortfall. The plan was to focus on projects that create jobs, have state/regional significance, and/or preserve state assets. Veterans, military and public safety projects also received priority.
In general, I am pleased the governor took the initiative to help the state live within its means by trimming back some of the spending. He repeatedly told the Legislature he would not approve a bill much over $700 million, yet legislators twice bills of $1 billion.
The first time this bill (HF 2700) passed the Legislature, Pawlenty indicated he would veto it. The legislative majority withheld the bill to avoid Pawlenty’s veto pen, and instead sent it to a conference committee for further review. It emerged at practically the same $1 billion dollar amount so, when Pawlenty finally was presented with the bill, he reduced it by nearly one third compared with the original cost.
We should have balanced our budget before getting the bonding bill done. That did not happen, so now we must get serious about straightening out our bottom line.