Pawlenty trims three budget bills before signing themby Martiga Lohn, Associated Press
St. Paul, Minn. — (AP) - First he pruned. Then he signed.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty approved budget bills for health and welfare programs, economic development and state agency operations on Friday, after trimming spending provisions that weren't to his liking - including a media campaign for public health programs and aid for local projects on the Iron Range.
Lawmakers passed the bills without any guarantees from Pawlenty that he would sign them. Without an overarching deal for a budget, he made no promises that he wouldn't strike down or slim down their spending proposals. He had rejected earlier versions of all three bills.
The Republican governor has threatened to take down a tax bill that would force state economists to factor inflation into budget forecasts, but isn't expected to officially receive the bill until next Tuesday. Also pending are bills for public schools and colleges.
Pawlenty praised the nearly $10 billion health and human services package for sinking $35 million into mental health programs, adding 30,000 more children to public health programs and pushing his "QCare" program to reward medical providers for how well they do.
The jobs bill includes a tax break for an expansion at legal publisher Thomson West's Eagan campus and disaster aid for Rogers, LeSeuer and Warroad. The state government package includes $20 million for a crackdown on tax cheats, which is expected to bring in $82 million over two years.
Line-item vetoes included:
-$1.95 million for a statewide media campaign targeting uninsured people who qualify for subsidized health programs but aren't enrolled.
-$575,000 for Iron Range projects including an Aitkin County peat project, youth employment to build community centers, a Virginia synagogue preservation project and improvements at a Chisholm baseball field.
-Half of $150,000 earmarked for the Hockey Hall of Fame Museum in Eveleth.
-Welfare aid including $7.9 million for work programs, $1.5 million for work study grants and a $3 million auto loan fund for welfare recipients.
-$2.5 million for St. Paul to pay off debt for the RiverCentre convention center; $500,000 to help the Upper Sioux community improve its water system; and $350,000 for Inver Grove Heights to pay off debt on a community center.
-$80,000 to buy an Indian burial site in Becker County.
Earlier Friday, Pawlenty deplored rising health and welfare costs on his weekly radio show on WCCO.
"The Legislature for years now is saying a disproportionate amount of the growth is going to go into human services," he said. "It's an important area but it's not more important, so much more important than these other areas that it should get the lion's share of the budget growth."
The governor also signed a bill that adds goals for conservation and greenhouse gas reduction to Minnesota's push to replace fossil fuels with green power.
The so-called "Next Generation Energy Act" pushes utilities to conserve more energy, includes money for more energy-efficient buildings and aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent by 2015 and 80 percent by 2050.
Pawlenty said the package -- combined with an already-approved renewable energy standard for utilities and funding for alternative fuels -- puts Minnesota ahead of most states on energy.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
- All Things Considered, 05/25/2007, 5:24 p.m.