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MINNESOTA LEGISLATURE: Pawlenty veto ... Second DFL tax plan ... etc.

Pawlenty vetoes one bill Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed an economic development funding package Thursday and signed into law a transportation budget bill. In a letter to lawmakers, the governor said he agreed with most of the $263 million economic deve...

Pawlenty vetoes one bill

Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed an economic development funding package Thursday and signed into law a transportation budget bill.

In a letter to lawmakers, the governor said he agreed with most of the $263 million economic development bill, but had to veto the entire package because he could not strike two provisions he opposed. One would have forgiven nearly $33 million of a state loan for St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center.

The city of St. Paul aimed to use the money recovered from loan payments to build an ice sheet across the street from the Xcel, but the governor said the timing was bad as state aid cuts slice into basic programs.

"The city of Saint Paul should not threaten to reduce police and fire services while requesting that a loan be forgiven in order to build an ice rink," the Republican governor said in his veto message.


Pawlenty also singled out as objectionable a provision that would have allowed workers compensation payments to cover alternative medicine treatments. But he said the majority of the bill was acceptable, and he hoped for a compromise.

"For the sake of Minnesota's workers and our economy, we will get back into our conference committee and redo this bill in order to preserve the core economic development programs Minnesota needs in these difficult economic times," said DFL Rep. Tom Rukavina of Virginia, chairman of the House economic development committee.

Pawlenty put his signature on the $4.3 billion transportation package. It funds Twin Cities-area and rural Minnesota transit programs and provides grants to local governments for bridge work.

Those were among the first two spending bills the Legislature sent to Pawlenty. He still is considering an environment finance bill.

Second DFL tax proposal

Democrats in control of the Minnesota Legislature pushed through a second tax proposal late Thursday that combines major tax and spending decisions.

Republicans objected loudly to the maneuvering, which put major budget decisions in the hands of only several lawmakers who worked into the night.

The alternative tax bill could raise about $1 billion through a new income tax bracket on the wealthiest Minnesotans and an alcohol tax increase -- and other measures -- to fund two of the largest budget areas where agreements have yet to be reached -- health and human services and public school education.


Senate Taxes Chairman Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said there are "stark differences" between a House tax plan that raises $1.5 billion and a Senate bill that increases taxes by $2.2 billion.

House Taxes Chairwoman Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, said Gov. Tim Pawlenty has proposed $1 billion in new revenue, by borrowing funds, to help balance the state budget.

Lawmakers will compromise by lowering their proposed tax increases to $1 billion, Lenczewski said.

The bill, which surprised Capitol observers, is part of the debate about closing a $4.6 billion state budget shortfall and bringing the legislative session to a close by its May 18 adjournment date.

Negotiations continued on bills funding other budget areas, including agriculture, veterans, public safety and state government.

Republican Pawlenty has said he will not support tax increases.

"We'll just let the Democrats get the tax increases out of their system early," said House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall. "At the end of the day, we'll have to come up with something different."

Budget deadline rejected


Democrats and GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty exchanged blame for missing a Thursday deadline to negotiate budget bills.

The House and Senate repealed a self-imposed midnight Thursday deadline to finish negotiating finance bills that fund a number of state budget areas.

The Legislature has sent three relatively small finance bills to Pawlenty, with the biggest spending bills yet to be resolved.

House Majority Leader Tony Sertich said committee deadlines helped to speed up the legislative process, but the only deadline that matters is the May 18 constitutional adjournment.

The Legislature is ahead of schedule, but some budget talks have been delayed at Gov. Tim Pawlenty's request, Sertich said. Pawlenty said he delayed a meeting about the public safety funding bill one day so he could go to a flood-prevention meeting in Washington. Otherwise, he said, he hasn't sought any delays.

"It seems like a mismanagement of time," Pawlenty said about how legislators blew by their deadline.

Pawlenty said he fears a special session may be needed to finish budget work.

Nuclear energy on ballot?


A Republican lawmaker said the Legislature has "dropped the ball" on nuclear energy expansion, so voters should decide whether that energy source is an option for Minnesota.

Rep. Laura Brod of New Prague proposes a constitutional amendment on the 2010 general election ballot asking voters whether state utility regulators should have authority to permit construction of a nuclear power plant.

Nuclear energy expansion has been prohibited by law for about 15 years. The state has nuclear power plants in Red Wing and Monticello.

The Senate voted last month to lift the nuclear moratorium, but the House voted to keep the ban in place.

Ticket diversions banned

Lawmakers sent to Gov. Tim Pawlenty a bill prohibiting event ticket brokers from diverting tickets to another seller charging a higher rate.

The legislation stems from Ticketmaster's handling of tickets for an upcoming Bruce Springsteen concert in St. Paul. Ticketmaster redirected customers to another business, which charged more for tickets.

Offender Web use limited


A plan to restrict high-risk sex offenders from accessing social networking Internet sites awaits Gov. Tim Pawlenty's signature. The Legislature approved a public safety bill that prohibits high-risk offenders on intensive supervised release from using social networking Web sites, such as Facebook and MySpace, and Internet chat rooms. The bill also bans using mobile phones and text messages to solicit children for sexual acts.

Laser shining gets banned

Shining a hand-held laser at an airplane would be a felony under a bill lawmakers passed Thursday.

The House voted 129-3 for the proposal that makes it a felony to shine a laser into the cockpit of an airplane in flight. Proponents said that has caused emergency airplane landings in Minnesota and elsewhere. Senators earlier approved the bill 65-0.

Bill eases quarantining

A bill that would make it easier to quarantine those who get sick in a disease outbreak is headed for Gov. Tim Pawlenty's desk.

The House passed the bill 122-8 this week, after the Senate approved it last week. The bill would allow law enforcement officers to quarantine and isolate an ill person subject to a court order. Current law allows them to take those steps only if the person flees or forcibly resists the officer.

The bill also establishes new ways of getting vaccines out during an outbreak. Postal carriers could deliver the vaccines, households could send a designated person to pick them up, or they could be dispensed at a community church or business.


Davis and Wente report for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald.

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