Gov. Pawlenty and the chairs of the House and Senate Capital Investment Committees met behind closed doors to discuss their differences on the state's bonding bill. Pawlenty is proposing a $685 million bonding bill. The House passed a bill that is just over $1 billion. The Senate passed a $1 billion bill.
After the meeting, DFL Rep. Alice Hausman said Pawlenty told them that the House and Senate bills are too big and need to be scaled back. But Hausman said he didn't give specifics.
"The dilemma is, without clear direction, you sort of end up negotiating against yourself. Unless there's a clear sense that a bill would be signed at "x size" with "x number" of items, there's not a great amount of motivation to, in a sense, negotiate with yourself."
Hausman said Pawlenty also complained that the bill included too many local projects like the Scott County Training Program and the Merit Training Program in Marshall.
When asked if Pawlenty gave them any information that they didn't know already, both Hausman and DFL Sen. Keith Langseth said no. Langseth called it a "feel good meeting" and said he was happy with the size of the Senate bill. He said Pawlenty rarely goes above his asking price in negotiations.
"The problem has been the one-man show thing. I got a 53 to 13 vote. I put a lot of Republican things in there. What he's done with the line-items then is line-item the Democratic stuff. I'm fair and he isn't."
Pawlenty's spokesman Brian McClung said Pawlenty called the meeting to give Hausman and Langseth direction on the bill. McClung repeated the Pawlenty Administration's stance that the bill is too large and shouldn't borrow more than $725 million. He stopped short, however, of saying whether Pawlenty would veto the bill outright or line-item veto the projects he doesn't like.
"You can't just go out and slap together a bill that spends a billion dollars or more and run around and be Santa Claus to everybody and send a bill to Gov. Pawlenty and ask him to be Scrooge."
McClung also said Pawlenty wants to see more bipartisan support for the bill (15 Republicans in the House and Senate voted for it) but didn't offer specifics when asked what "more bipartisan support" meant.
Both Langseth and Hausman hope to reach a House/Senate agreement on the bill by the end of the month.