Pawlenty, Doyle plan protections for St. Croix Riverby Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
Hudson, Wis. — Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle are pledging to keep working together to clean up the St. Croix River, which serves as the border between the two states.
The governors met today in Hudson, Wis., to highlight their cross-border cooperation on common environmental and fiscal goals.
They didn't announce a new program, and they didn't promise any additional money to protect the St. Croix River.
But Pawlenty, a Republican, and Doyle, a Democrat, used a slow news day to say they would keep up the efforts their two states already have underway to protect the river.
At a marina in Hudson, Doyle said both states are working hard on a 2006 agreement to reduce phosphorous pollutions by 20 percent by 2020.
"Our St. Croix community wastewater treatment facilities have decreased their phosphorous loadings by close to 60 percent from 1990 levels," said Doyle. "Together we completed an intensive study this year to clearly identify the remaining sources of pollution."
Still, Doyle says pollution will continue to be a problem as the population keeps growing along the border waterway.
American Rivers, a national waterways organization, put the Lower St. Croix on its list of the 10 most endangered rivers in the country earlier this year. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has said the river is impaired by runoff from phosphorous. Fertilizer is big source of phosphorous runoff.
Both states have been struggling with big budget deficits, and most state government projects are suffering. Gov. Pawlenty suggested new revenue from Minnesota's voter-approved sales tax increase could find its way to the St. Croix cleanup.
But Pawlenty is also counting on an initiative he launched with Doyle earlier this year to work together on a broad range of government initiatives to save money.
"If we had to do this individually, as opposed to our respective teams cooperating and getting the efficiencies from that, it would cost more," said Pawlenty. "We think we can save tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands in the coming years, without duplicating the effort that needs to be done to protect this river."
Pawlenty and Doyle have reached quick consensus on things like the joint purchasing of food for prisons. But they appear to be struggling with a larger tax matter.
Pawlenty based his go-it-alone budget solution on convincing Wisconsin to renegotiate a decades-old agreement that allows residents who cross the border for work to pay income taxes in only their home state rather than both.
State officials say 57,000 Wisconsin residents work in Minnesota, compared to 22,500 Minnesotans who work in Wisconsin. Wisconsin makes up the for the disparity, but the payments come 17 months later. Pawlenty says a faster payback would give Minnesota about $106 million.
Doyle says Wisconsin has been mischaracterized as delaying its obligation to Minnesota. He says the payments are made exactly as the current agreement requires. Doyle wouldn't say if a new agreement is close, but he said he hopes to find a solution.
"In fact, Wisconsin pays interest on that money. And we pay very high interest on it. I think we pay 7 or 8 percent interest," said Doyle. "So to some extent, we have an incentive to see some change in this, where we're not paying the interest."
Doyle's Minnesota counterpart is hoping for a resolution as well. If one is not reached, Gov. Pawlenty has said he would just end the reciprocity agreement, which would provide the same budget-balancing result.
Pawlenty said there's still plenty of time to keep talking, but a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Revenue told MPR News that Wisconsin was given a Sept. 1 deadline to renegotiate the deal.
- All Things Considered, 07/24/2009, 5:51 p.m.