St. Cloud officials eagerly await Pawlenty's State of the State addressby Tim Post, Minnesota Public Radio
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty will deliver his sixth State of the State address in St. Cloud. It's the first time the central Minnesota city has played host to a governor's state of the state. The speech will lay out Pawlenty's agenda for the new legislative session, especially in light of the worsening economy and a nearly $400 million state budget deficit. But that hasn't dampened the enthusiasm of community leaders in St. Cloud, who hope the governor's appearance means something big is on tap for their city.
St. Cloud, Minn. — The governor's office won't say much about why Pawlenty chose St. Cloud as the location for his address. According to spokesman Alex Carey, the governor wants to focus attention on the city.
"Governor Pawlenty thinks it's important to showcase other parts of the state. Obviously St. Cloud is the heart of Minnesota's heartland, and is also a vibrant and important growing regional center," Carey says.
Some in St. Cloud think there could be more behind Pawlenty's choice.
Teresa Bohnen heads up the local Chamber of Commerce. She hopes the governor takes on the role of a favorite uncle, the kind who brings a gift when he visits.
"No one can track down what it might be. So it's a greatly kept secret if it is out there," Bohnen says.
Steve Gottwalt, a Republican lawmaker who represents St. Cloud in the Minnesota House of Representatives, wonders if the governor will announce a state-funded initiative to lure bioscience companies to St. Cloud.
The St. Cloud metro area was recently designated a bioscience zone by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
"It's great to see us being at the table for that -- not only for our area but for the state of Minnesota, and great that we've been recognized at the state level. So perhaps the governor will mention something about that," Gottwalt says.
News regarding a bioscience effort is something political science professor Kay Wolsborn agrees could be in Pawlenty's speech.
But Wolsborn, who teaches at the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University, says it may not be a state-funded initiative.
"There may be some private initiatives coming forward that we don't know about. Some kind of announcement of some private sector initiatives coming into St. Cloud," Wolsborn says.
Pawlenty's address will probably focus on the tough budget choices ahead, according to Wolsborn. And she says the governor will need to explain how he'll balance the budget and fund major transportation needs.
Rep. Larry Haws, DFL-St. Cloud, is anxious to hear how Gov. Pawlenty plans to help the state through lean economic times.
Haws hopes the governor will support an even bigger bonding bill than the nearly $1 billion package Pawlenty proposed. Haws says that will put people to work on various construction projects in St. Cloud and around the state.
"We have enough doom and gloom that we have to have a message of hope, that we have to have a message of creativity ... and search for a solution as Republicans, as Democrats, as elected citizens as public servants," Haws says.
With all the talk of tough times ahead, St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis doesn't think it's likely his city will be on the receiving end in the State of the State.
"Any kind of announcement to help St. Cloud or our region is always positive, so we'd like that," says Kleis. "Having the seat of government in St. Cloud for a day is significant to our community, and we are certainly honored to have it here."
Kleis admits it would be nice to hear the governor support St. Cloud's bonding request for $15 million to help the city expand its civic center.
That civic center is where Pawlenty will deliver his state of the state. But he has already told city leaders that state money to expand the facility isn't on his list of bonding priorities this year.
- Morning Edition, 02/13/2008, 7:20 a.m.