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Governor's project list draws criticism

Published (2/15/2008)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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Although Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s $1.09 billion capital budget request hasn’t been formalized into a bill, House Capital Investment Finance Division members had plenty of questions.

No action was taken on the proposal, which includes $965 million in general obligation bonding, shared Feb. 12 and 14 by Commissioner of Finance Tom Hanson.

For example, a $15 million recommendation to help fund a projected $23 million cleanup of the Washington County Landfill had plenty of critics. Members wanted to know why Maplewood-based 3M Company, the known source of contaminates in the landfill, wasn’t footing the entire bill for cleanup. It was noted that other landfills in the state are in need of remediation, and the governor has not recommended money for those requests.

Transportation and higher education funding proposals also had their critics.

Nearly 38 percent of the governor’s bonding money is targeted toward transportation needs, but at the expense of higher education proposals, members said.

Rep. Al Juhnke (DFL-Willmar) said that passage of an omnibus transportation finance bill could free up more money for education needs. “I can’t think of a better place to put the money … to ready students for new jobs. Our colleges need a lot of help,” he said.

The governor’s bonding priority areas are:

• $416 million for transportation and transit;

• $258 million for higher education, with $129 million for both the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system;

• $175 million for environment and outdoors;

• $96 million for economic development;

• $68 million for state building asset preservation;

• $50 million for veterans and military affairs; and

• $41 million for public safety and corrections.

Overall, about $294 million in recommendations are targeted for Greater Minnesota, $324 million is for the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area and another $470 million would be for projects of statewide significance.

This is the largest bonding package proposed by a governor in the state’s history, Hanson said.

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